Sunday, September 14, 2008

CERN - Grid Computing System the Gen-Y Internet Network Developed by Indian Scientists from Calcutta

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It's a proud moment for the Indian nuclear scientists particularly those from the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics and the Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre, of the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre, both in Kolkata or formerly Calcutta.

They have jointly played an important role in their contribution to the Big Bang Project that's being currently carried out at CERN, Geneva.

The gigantic 27 Kilometers long tubular Large Hadron Collider or LHC runs through a long circular tunnel, 100 meters below the earth surface, alongside the Jura Mountains close to the Swiss-French border.

This highly sophisticated particle accelerator would enable two high velocity beams of sub atomic particles such as the Hadrons or Protons, to move in opposite direction, both of being able to accelerate to a speed of 99.9999% that of light before they smash into each other. 

This giant accelerator, the LHC has to be positioned very critically such that the protons are guided to follow a predetermined path that does not allow any margin of error lest it cause the experiment to go awry. 

For this the LHC has to be positioned correctly and hence has been placed on a 7080 precision magnet position system or PMPS jacks, all of which have been made by Indian Scientists and engineers. 

Besides the PMPS jacks, India contributed to the CERN's Big Bang Project by making specially designed superconducting magnets, large liquid nitrogen tanks and many sub-systems of the magnet and detector systems.

Grid Computing System

However to those involved with software development particularly that for the internet it would be interesting to note that Indian scientists and software engineers have played a major role by developing the “grid computing” system, installed at CERN. 

This Grid Computing System will enable scientists sitting before their computer console the world over to receive data in real time at their respective laboratories once the actual Big Bang experiment commences on a full scale, following the collision.  

The Indian scientists have provided the most critical software inputs for the next generation data storage handling mechanism that would in the future revolutionize the World Wide Web. 

This computing grid will allow the gigantic amount of data generated during proton beam collisions to flow seamlessly, enable the data to be stored such that it could be later accessed for processing during analysis. 

“The new system, referred to as Grid Computing, is an advanced form of collective computing network spread across the world. Each of the four points of proton beam collisions at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) expected to generate data that will run into PetaBytes (one million times more than GigaBytes), the resources of no single country will be enough to process this huge data. Hence, the concept of Grid Computing that will act like an electricity grid to distribute data load across the world in real time,” VECC and SINP director Bikash Sinha said. 

For a sense of the magnitude of data generation, a million PCs of 80 GB each can accommodate only one month’s data generated from ALICE. The three other points of collision — LHC-B, CMS, ATLAS — will each generate similar quantum of data. One year of LHC data nearly equals 20 km of CD stack. Now imagine the data that will be produced over 10 years, the duration of the experiment at CERN! 

Incidentally, the World Wide Web was also discovered at CERN. But unlike the Web, where data is stored at the back end and can accessed by a user through a browser at the front end to process the information, Grid Computing will allow real-time information flow from the back end to the front for shared computing and analysis by thousands of scientists in different countries. 

“Unlike the Web, we will be sharing computing power and not only viewing files or information,” explained VECC scientific officer Subhashish Chattopadhyay. Three other scientific officers from VECC — Susanta Kumar Pal, Vikas Singhal and Tapas Samanta participated in the Grid Computing project initiated by Y P Viyogi, currently director of Bhubaneswar-based Institute of Physics. 

The middleware or interface that has been developed in Kolkata is to access, store and analyze data generated out of the proton beam collisions at ALICE, one of the four collision points in the 27-km-long tunnel. “In India, two Grid computing centres have been established at VECC and TIFR to process and analyze the data generated from the proton beam collisions,” Chattopadhyay added. While VECC is taking part in the ALICE experiment, TIFR is participating in CMS. 

The challenge was to not just write a huge amount of software and procure hardware for the seamless flow of information across the grid, it was also to write software that would make the network secure. 

The entire LHC Grid comprises a global network of 100,000 central processing units (CPUs) that will analyze what happens when protons are hurled at each other inside LHC. The ultimate quest is to detect evidence of extra dimensions, invisible dark matter and an elusive particle called the Higgs boson. 

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