By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2005-10-05 Print this article Print

-It-Yourself Grid Computing"> Eric Bremmer, a professor at Children Memorial Hospital at Northwestern University, told about grid-enabling data and text mining for the systems on which the development for a biology knowledge base happens. His is a small research organization attached to the hospital, but he needed to integrate some 150,000 articles from five years worth of 20 medical journals.
The problem was that more than 24 hours were needed to process about 5,000 articles on a single desktop computer. Another problem is that this stuff is time-sensitive: Scientific literature goes out of date rapidly, so youre only as good as your last update.
With the help of United Devices Inc., Bremmer got a small grid up and running. He said hes managed to decrease analysis time, going from 5,000 articles in 24 hours to about 100,000 articles in 24 hours. Hes using the same computers that are either used by administrative staff or put to work on other research projects during the day, running the grid analysis work from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. so as to stay out of administrators hair. Turning to a service provider is the only resource for somebody like Bremmer, who has two research assistant professors and some post-docs, all of them medical types and none of them computer science types. Another thing you need to worry about is whether youre in a regulated environment, he said. "Weve tended to move toward commercial software because we need to have it FDA regulations-capable," he said. "And most open-source software is not because you cant lock it down, by nature." So you get some service providers in-house. But what sort of skills do you need to lead the project? Wolfgang Gentzsch, a member of the GGF steering committee, a coordinator at D-Grid and visiting scientist at the Renaissance Computing Institute at UNC/Chapel Hill, said you have to know enough to define the different steps of projects; to watch over the service provider, who will be bringing in various parts of the project; you have to measure the projects success; and you have to know enough to report back to the next level of management. But, Bremmer said, the training youll receive in the process is "remarkable." What are some of the pitfalls companies get into when they do grid themselves, without service providers? DataSynapses Director of Business Development Dave Maples said his company often gets called into projects where somebody has attempted to build some kind of clustering or load-balancing project that they then proceeded to outgrow. That means the grid wont scale, it didnt have enough power, and/or it didnt do resource identification very well. Bremmer pointed out another issue: In a research lab environment, the biggest problem is when a post-doc or somebody leaves. "To have a tool built by that person [means that] typically the knowledge leaves with that person," he said. Next Page: Organizational and security aspects of grid computing.

Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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