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PPARC announces £30m for physics Grid

Science computing in the UK has been boosted with the announcement by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) of £30m further funding for the UK’s largest scientific Grid.

The GridPP project is building a computing Grid to analyse data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a new particle accelerator near Geneva, which will be turned on later this year. The funding announced this week will allow GridPP to continue into its third phase, running until 2011, covering the period when the LHC starts taking data.

Professor Keith Mason, CEO of PPARC said “The Large Hadron Collider at CERN is the world’s largest physics experiment, recreating conditions last seen just after the Big Bang in order to better understand our Universe. The detectors will register a deluge of data at up to 15 Gigabytes per second – or 3 DVDs every second. To store and manage this data requires a new approach – the Grid.”

He added “CERN’s last large experiment had a similar problem and as a result the World Wide Web was developed there. With phases 1&2 of GridPP successfully demonstrating the concept, phase 3 will now put it into action as the data starts coming in. In a few years, the Grid may be as familiar to home users as the web is today.”

A Grid lets scientists access computers around the world as though they were one large computer, using their processing and storage capacity without needing to know the physical location of the computers. The UK particle physics Grid currently has more than five thousand processors at 17 sites across the country; with the new funding, this will increase to 20 thousand by 2011.

GridPP is also integrated with other grids in the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid project, including more than 35 thousand CPU in 50 countries. This Grid will be used to analyse the petabytes (millions of Gigabytes) of data produced by the LHC each year in its search for the basic building blocks of matter.

Dr David Britton from Imperial College London, who will be Project Leader for GridPP3, commented, “This funding takes us in to the most exciting phase of GridPP, testing all the work that has gone before as we start receiving the LHC data and providing it to the users – scientists all around the UK eager to take part in the likely scientific breakthroughs. Without GridPP they would be excluded from the exciting discoveries that will made in particle physics in the next few years.”

The GridPP3 grant will cover areas including staff and hardware at the particle physics Grid sites in the UK, and more general support such as security and operations management.

Julia Maddock | alfa
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