Feature: Government to grid
It is well known that countries like the UK and Germany have invested heavily in grid technology, but they are not alone. Countries in South Eastern Europe have also enthusiastically embraced grid technologies.
Aleksandar Belic, head of the Scientific Computing Laboratory at the Institute of Physics in Belgrade, has been one of the leaders in bringing grid infrastructures to the region.
Unusually for a scientist, Belic has governmental experience that has proved invaluable in his work with projects such as Enabling Grids for E-sciencE.
"I spent three years as Assistant Minister of Science for Serbia, working on international collaborations," says Belic. "I was very proud to have helped to pave the way for Serbian participation in the European Commission Framework Programmes, which led to Serbia playing a role in projects like EGEE and SEE-GRID."
Paving the way for a pan-European grid
SEE-GRID, the South Eastern European Grid-Enabled eInfrastructure Development project, paves the way towards regional participation in pan-European and worldwide grid initiatives.
"I enjoyed my experience as a policy maker, but physics has always been my true calling," Belic adds. "My research career began in the United States, modelling and simulating complex physical systems. I was always strongly involved with high performance computing; my first computer account was on a Cray II. Later I became involved with clusters, keeping an eye out for new developments. When grid computing came along I jumped on the bandwagon immediately."
Belic notes that the key point in getting onto the Grid for Serbia was its participation in the South Eastern European Research and Education Network project.
"We joined SEEREN, and obviously we wanted to run services on top of the network so joining SEE-GRID was the natural next step," he explains. "We had a favourable experience in SEE-GRID and so we joined EGEE in 2006. In many ways SEE-GRID acts as an incubator for EGEE in our region. My institute heads infrastructure activity in SEE-GRID-II and coordinates AEGIS, the Academic and Educational Grid Initiative of Serbia. I am very happy that we've succeeded in attracting many academic intuitions to this effort."
Apart from working with EGEE, SEE-GRID and AEGIS, Belic is also working to improve Serbian grid infrastructure in the longer term using pre-accession funds from the European Commission.
"We've asked for about 1,500 processors overall, plus some efforts to man them," he says. "The Serbian Ministry of Science has identified this as one of their priority projects. We are currently in the evaluation phase, and are hopeful of success. Until recently it wasn't possible to get EC funding for research infrastructures. This has now changed, and I've had the pleasure of speaking about this to the EC Commissioner for Science and Research when he visited our institute earlier this year. Serbia will be an associate country in Framework Programme 7, and my colleagues and I hope to use this to play a more prominent role in the Europe-wide grid family."
- Owen Appleton, EGEE