"The Grid" will revolutionize download speed in personal computers

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London, September 29 : With the development of a network of supercomputers, known as the Grid, the speed at which information is downloaded to personal computers would be revolutionized, heralding the dawn of a new internet age.

According to a report in the Times, the power of the Grid is such that downloading films should take only seconds, not hours, and processing music albums just a single second.

Video-phone calls should also cost no more than a local call. More importantly, it should help to narrow the search for cures for diseases.

The Grid, a network of 100,000 computers, is to be connected to the world's largest machine, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

It is designed for projects, such as large research and engineering jobs, which need to crunch huge quantities of data, but scientists believe it will eventually be used on home computers.

The Grid allows scientists at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, to get access to the unemployed processing power of thousands of computers in 33 countries to deal with the data created by the LHC.

Scientists at CERN, where the world wide web was invented, created the Grid because they realized that a single computer would not be able to cope with the amount of data the LHC is expected to produce each year - 15 petabytes, or 15 million gigabytes, which would fill 20 million CDs.

According to Dr Bob Jones, a CERN scientist, "The (world wide) web allows you to access information on other computers. What the Grid allows you to do is not only access the information, but make use of their computing resources and power."

Jones said that users would be able to tap into massive amounts of processing power, but the source of the power would change, depending on availability.

Processing tasks will be distributed between 11 gateway computer centres in ten countries, including Britain, which will share them out between more than 140 sites.

One of the first jobs the Grid will tackle is handling the raw data for CERN's experiments into finding proof of the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle.

Its uses, however, extend well beyond particle physics and it has already been used on a smaller scale in research into diseases such as malaria and bird flu.

"The Grid cannot find a cure for cancer, but what it can do is make it quicker," said Dr Jones, explaining that what might have taken a decade could now be done in weeks.

"With the Grid, scientists could run hundreds of thousands of simulations to create a shortlist of the drugs that are most likely to offer the potential for a cure," he added.


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