March 7, 2003  


Physics Data Goes on the Grid

(Graphic by SciArts Media)

By Shawna Williams

A Grid system currently in the works will distribute data from the BABAR detector to five computing centers in the U.S. and in Europe. This system will crunch the numbers and deliver results up to ten times faster than the current system.

Some BABAR physicists already use computers at other sites, but "they have to know more things, and to know more people to call when things go wrong," said Richard Mount, Director of SLAC computing services (SCS). "The aim is to make it more simple, as if you’re working on only one computer center."

To do that, software designers must find a way to coordinate computing centers running on different systems, in a way that’s most useful for the physicists who will use the Grid. Mount said one of the Grid’s major accomplishments so far has been to get high-energy physicists and computer scientists, who "regard each other as Martians," to effectively exchange ideas. Another key to the project has been good communication between potential Grid users worldwide, whose participation will ensure they’ll use the software once available.

Some of the many SLAC staff involved in development of the Grid (left to right): Adil Hasan, Booker Bense, Richard Mount, Andrew Hanushevsky (all SCS) (Photo by Shawna Williams)

"We’re understanding the challenges of working with communities, not only in Europe but also increasingly in Asia, in a way where we try to continuously reestablish convergence in what we’re doing, while at the same time not stifling innovation," Mount said.

Some of the people at SLAC involved in setting up the Grid are Adil Hasan, who is in charge of data management for the BABAR Grid; Booker Bense, who deals with the software that controls task distribution among the computing centers; Bob Cowles, Computer Security Officer, who deals with strategic planning and security aspects of the Grid; and Andy Hanushevsky, who works with European Grid projects to coordinate Grid design.

"I’ve had the idea for 20 years that this is something we’d like to do," Mount explained. "About four years ago we got small amount of funding, which allowed us to build a collaboration between high energy physicists and computer scientists." If all goes well, he said, "in six months’ time we can say BABAR physics is truly being done on a Grid."



The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center is managed by Stanford University for the US Department of Energy

Last update Friday March 07, 2003 by Kathy B