Feature: Building Japan's Grid
NAREGI, Japan's National Research Grid Initiative, started in 2003 as a project to develop grid middleware and prove the technology's usefulness to scientific communities and the business world.
More recently, NAREGI's goals have expanded to include supporting two nationwide computing infrastructures.
"NAREGI's grid middleware is one of the key component technologies for the Japanese Cyber Science Infrastructure framework," explains NAREGI Project Leader Kenichi Miura. "We will also provide the infrastructure for access and data sharing within the Petascale computing system when it becomes available in 2010."
Both the Cyber Science Infrastructure, which will link Japanese universities and research institutions, and the planned network of petaflop-scale high-performance computing systems, will benefit scientists across the country. A smaller group of scientists is already experimenting with and benefiting from NAREGI middleware.
"The Institute for Molecular Science is included in the NAREGI project as the core center for research and development of large-scale nanoscience and nanotechnology applications," adds Miura.
Today there are over 30 application groups in nanoscience working with the NAREGI project. A wider range of applications is being tested on the grid environment through the Industrial Committee for Super Computing Promotion, which promotes collaborative work between NAREGI and industrial researchers.
"The nanoscience applications are very diverse, from drug and polymer design to fuel cells and carbon nanotubes," says Satoshi Matsuoka from the Tokyo Institute of Technology. "The industrial collaboration includes automotive, chemistry and pharmaceutical clients."
NAREGI developers also work with other Cyber Science Infrastructure communities, including high-energy physics and astronomy, helping them form virtual organizations and experiment with grid middleware.
In software development as well as application testing, the NAREGI project includes participation from both academia and industry. Project leadership is largely provided by university faculty and researchers, while software development is contracted out to Japanese companies.
"It's important that we get companies involved for two reasons," explains Matsuoka. "We want a sustainable infrastructure, and one of the ways to guarantee that is to make sure the middleware becomes serviceable by companies and becomes part of their products. We also want to transfer grid skill sets and knowledge from the universities, which have been working on this for 10 years, to the companies."
The resulting middleware is designed to accommodate a large range of computing architectures, from desktops to computing farms to high-performance computing systems. The project's objective is to use grid middleware to virtualize all the resources available to an individual researcher or research group.
"In the ideal situation, people have a seamless environment where most of the time they may compute on their own resources, but when they need much more power they'll automatically transition to large computing centers," says Matsuoka.
In the past three years, NAREGI has set up an experimental grid testbed that includes two large computing centers and a handful of smaller computing sites. The first production version of the NAREGI middleware will be released in 2008, at which time the integration of the country's computing centers into a unified grid environment will begin.
- Katie Yurkewicz, iSGTW