Feature - EGEE-II: a grid for research
Enabling Grids for E-sciencE is a major European initiative to develop a grid for researchers. EGEE-II is the second phase of a four-year program, and includes 91 partners in 32 countries, with many other groups contributing to the project's work.
EGEE was originally developed to make grid resources available to European researchers, but is rapidly expanding to work with the global grid community. EGEE-II works closely with other grid initiatives such as DEISA, the European supercomputing grid, Japan's NAREGI, and the Open Science Grid in the United States.
"EGEE is an ambitious program," said Bob Jones, the project's director, "but with the dedication of our many project members, we've been able to achieve a great deal in the last few years. We are helping make fundamental changes to the way modern research is carried out."
In addition to working closely with grid initiatives around the world, the project works with a wide range of smaller projects funded by the European Commission. These include projects that aim to extend the EGEE infrastructure to new parts of the globe, to adapt scientific applications to the grid, or create new applications, and projects to provide grid support services, such as software integration and testing. There are now more than twenty such projects, helping to form a broad community of grid users, providers and developers.
The EGEE program launched in 2004 with two major user groups. The first was the high energy physics community, especially scientists involved in computation for the upcoming Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Switzerland, where EGEE will help process the 15 petabytes of data this accelerator will produce. The other community, the biomedical sciences, is divided into three areas: drug discovery, bioinformatics and work on medical imaging. While these remain the largest user groups, the project has expanded to support other communities, such as earth sciences and geophysics, computational chemistry, fusion science, astronomy and astrophysics, and financial applications. These groups have formed more than 200 virtual organizations that allow them to collaborate, each VO representing an individual application.
These applications run on the EGEE infrastructure, which features over 200 sites across Europe and beyond, with tens of thousands of processors running gLite, the EGEE middleware. The sites that make up the EGEE grid are provided by project partners as well as other academic institutions, and even businesses who wish to connect to the grid. In this way they can gain experience of providing and using grid services.
"Our infrastructure is a major achievement," commented Technical Director Erwin Laure. "We have to coordinate dispersed groups with many different requirements across 40 countries, but now we are in the phase where the number of groups using our grid is increasing rapidly, as they see how we can help in their daily work."
Looking to the future, EGEE is playing an important role in efforts to create a more permanent European grid. This is necessary to be able to guarantee grid users that the services they use now can be relied upon to be available in the long term. These efforts are being carried out though the European Grid Initiative, a proposed body to coordinate European grid computing.