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.
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
"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."