Friday, October 10, 2008

BPN 1246 AlmereGrid: a cityGrid for unused computer time

The most famous example of a grid is SETI@HOME. Consumers donate computer time to a project that uses Internet-connected computers in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). I have had never the urge to participate in a project attempting to discover extraterrestrial life. But recently I was surprised to find city grid computing in my home town, Almere. AlmereGrid is operational since September 2006 after two years of preparation (The excuse for missing this news item is, that we were moving offices at that time).

AlmereGrid is a city grid aiming to solve more complex problems. The city is working on an urban fibre network for its almost 200.000 inhabitants, a number that will double in the next ten years. AlmereGrid allows citizens, companies and other organisations to donate otherwise unused computing time to science. By donating computing time for instance to medical research, these projects can be speeded up. AlmereGrid makes it easy for everyone to participate, even for computer non-literate by providing software.

The Almere-based initiative is a special project in four regards. First the heterogeneity of the Grid is remarkable. From the central AlmereGrid Exchange, communication will be initiated with all possible operating systems on which the connected processors are running. Secondly, the citizens and companies located within the Almere Fibre project will be involved. AlmereGrid will be implemented in a tight social structure which will connect the pioneers in the test-bed area. The third special project feature is strongly related with this fact. The fibre network is connecting the computers with a fixed speed of 100Mbit/s. This can be guaranteed since the SARA subsidiary in Almere and the service provider UNET are taking part as Technology Providers in AlmereGrid. The fourth feature consists in the technical but especially human enforcement of leading technology companies, which are collaborating to deploy the project. AlmereGrid is partner in the EU EDGeS project (EU Grant Agreement 211727).

AlmerGrid has performed already projects in the medical field, computing project and for consumers a building project. The medical project was for the Rotterdam Erasmus University. It concerned a finger bone growth project, requiring calculation power to track the growth in finger bones. Another project was done for the Antwerp University. The project dubbed Java Port AlmereGrid MetaScheduler was the final assignment for a Bachelor Informatics. It concerned a study and implementation of a so-called metascheduler, which was able to distribute the workload over various Grids. Some programs of this project will be used by AlmereGrid.

But AlmereGrid is not only oriented to scientific projects. As Almere is a fast growing city, doubling in inhabitant numbers over the next ten years. More than 70.000 houses have to be built. A number of them will be designed and/or built by the inhabitants themselves. In order to support those inhabitants the program Virtual Building Coach is being developed for them to design their own house in virtual reality on AlmereGrid. A number of relevant databases, including legislative ones, will be available on the AlmereGrid.

Another project is BEinGRID, a back-up facility for Small and Middle sized Enterprises (SMEs). AlmereGrid facilitates online back-up. The back-ups will be divided in parts and distributed over various machines. The files are encrypted and safe for disaster, fire and theft. The safety technology is base in the Random Reader of the Rabobank.

Blog Posting Number: 1246


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