In the Beginning

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2005-06-27 Print this article Print

The history of grid computing at SDSC can be traced to 1985, when the National Science Foundation decided to start a supercomputing centers program to make supercomputers available to academic researchers.

"Before then, if you wanted to use supercomputers, you really needed to be in defense or in the Department of Energy and doing classified work," Papadopoulos said. "That kind of computing power was not available to the masses."

That program existed for 12 years, and in 1997 a new program—the Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure—was started, aided by the growth of broadband, Papadopoulos said. "Part of the reason it started was that networks went from [56K-bps] networks that interconnected the centers in 1985 to, in 1994, the BBNS [BroadBand Networking Services] at 45M bps. In 1997, the centers were connected at 155M bps. It was enough of a change for a new program to be started. The supercomputer centers no longer had to act as islands."

By 2001, network throughput increased from 155M bps to 655M bps. SDSCs TeraGrid project was then introduced with a 40G-bit back-plane network.

Today, all SDSC research is funded by grants and awards. However, in its early days, the center was allowed to resell about 10 percent of its spare cycles in an effort to raise more funds for research.

Next Page: Scaling the TeraGrid

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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