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Indiana U. to Lead New Supercomputing Network

With a new $10.1-million grant from the National Science Foundation, Indiana University at Bloomington plans to build an experimental network to link supercomputers at campuses across the country to help scientists tackle large-scale reseach problems.

The project aims to create a distributed supercomputer by linking some 1,400 processors at five universities. The new network will be called FutureGrid.

Bradley Wheeler, the university’s vice president for information technology, says that the goal of the project is to figure out the best way to do such networking of high-end computers. The ability to create faster machines by linking several supercomputers online could help projects such as modeling climate systems or comparing DNA segments.

“This whole project hinges on the question, What’s next?” Mr. Wheeler said. “We are creating an experiment factory to discover the best cyberinfrastructure for modern scientific research.”

This announcement comes on the heels of a $30-million NSF grant to TeraGrid, a supercomputer network founded in 2001 that provides access to more than 100 discipline-specific databases, and includes resources at Indiana.

Mr. Wheeler says one goal of the FutureGrid project is to make sure all the scientific world’s eggs are not in the TeraGrid basket. He says that TeraGrid works slightly differently, letting researchers at one university connect remotely to a single supercomputer at another institution. But FutureGrid hopes to spread the computation and data storage across various sources, harnassing so-called cloud computing.

“If we were given a billion dollars to create the next best system right now, we wouldn’t know what to do,” he said. “We are trying to figure out the system that could one day replace TeraGrid.”

The new network will link processors at Indiana University at Bloomington with those at the Universities of California at San Diego, Chicago (and Argonne National Lab), Florida, Southern California, and Texas at Austin.

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