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IberGrid: A tale of two countries

Iberian peninsula as published in Robert Wilkinson's General Atlas, circa 1794.
Optimizing resources: Spain & Portugal join forces to make the most of what they have. An 18th century hand-colored engraved map of the Iberian peninsula depicting various topographical features of the land, as published in Robert Wilkinson's General Atlas, circa 1794. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

On the western edge of Europe, on the Iberian Peninsula, sit Spain and Portugal. The two countries have many things in common and one of them is their grid infrastructure. Since the early days of the European grid, they have shared responsibility for the infrastructure, combining expertise to provide the best support to their users. In 2007, they officially created IberGrid to formalise the arrangement and five years on they are still going strong.

Back in 2007, both Portugal and Spain had built up a lot of experience and expertise in providing resources through the grid infrastructure. Throughout they had worked very closely together offering advice and help to each other when necessary. Launching a joint plan for providing the infrastructure across Iberia as a single organization seemed the logical next step.

One of the people who helped draft that document was Isabel Campos, from the Spanish side of the border, who still works on IberGrid today. "It made sense for us to combine our efforts; together we would be stronger and more effective," Campos said. "Over the last five years I think we have really proven that what we laid out in that document was both achievable and of a real benefit to both countries."

"If there is one thing we can take from IberGrid it is that it has allowed us to build on our early success to create what our users need," said Gonçalo Borges, who is based in Lisbon, Portugal. "The breadth of research we support is a testament to that, from the big guys in the LHC experiments to the individual users in computational chemistry - people doing work that would not be possible without what we provide."

With a combined population of over 56 million people, the two countries have world-class universities and IberGrid provides them with a usable and useful computing environment for scientists. The combined effort has been very successful in getting priority research areas onboard with IberGrid. These include astrophysics, materials science, environment risk control, civil protection and emergency response, meteorology, satellite remote detection, seismology and biomedical research.

The numbers speak for themselves: IberGrid's generic physics virtual organization (VO), phys.ibergrid, for example, is the only regional VO to appear within the top 10 users of CPU in EGI. And there is more than just physics: while the average CPU consumed by non-LHC VOs is 10% across EGI, it is 23% for IberGrid.

The research done on IberGrid stretches from protecting national landmarks such as the Aveiro lagoon in Portugal and investigating chemical reactions, to helping model nuclear fusion experiments and supporting the Pierre Auger Observatory.

This breadth of research demonstrates IberGrid's commitment to regional and global science. They are one of the many success stories within EGI, but their focus is on helping their local users as Isabel said: "EGI is extremely important for us. It is great to have a central organizing body, but we are here for our users and we plan to continue to support them for as long as we can, in whatever way they want."

IberGrid will host its annual meeting in Lisbon later this year. Dates will be announced soon.

A version of this article first appeared on the EGI website.

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