iSGTW Feature - Live Crunching in Switzerland

Feature: Live Crunching in Switzerland

Grids are complex and intangible systems, and demonstrating them to a wide audience can be difficult. The recent GridCrunch event rose to the challenge, giving a practical demonstration of grid computing to members of the business and research community at an event in Fribourg, Switzerland.

At GridCrunch, held December 7 at the Ecole d'Ingenieurs de Fribourg, approximately 50 people watched a live demonstration of the same distributed application running on two very different computing infrastructures.

"I was very impressed by the event," said EGEE's head of communications, Hannelore Hammerle. "They were really able to show how easy the grid was to use. It was also good to see the work of the Swiss Grid Initiative, a recently formed national grid initiative that represents Switzerland in the European and global grid communities."

The GridCrunch day, supported by the CoreGrid and EGEE projects, was built around a live test of two different high-level "object oriented parallel" programming languages: Pop-C++ and ProActive. Programs in both languages were run simultaneously using elements of the EGEE infrastructure in France and Switzerland. The programs dealt with the N-queens problem: how many ways a certain number (N) of queens can be placed on an chessboard of size NxN, with no queen able to attack any other queen.

The test also used resources in Austria and, unusually, a large part of the IBM Power5-based supercomputer at the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre, CSCS. These systems worked together to provide 450 CPUs of different architectures, operating seamlessly to solve the N-queens problem for N=21 and N=22.

"This event demonstrates that ubiquitous computing on a heterogeneous grid infrastructure is a reality," said Peter Kunszt of CSCS and the Swiss Grid Initiative. "It shows how straightforward it is to integrate supercomputers with the EGEE infrastructure."

The event also included an exhibition area with stands from business and research. "It was very nice to see business participating in the event," said Hammerle, "both large IT vendors and representatives from small and medium-sized enterprises. It's important to the European Commission, who fund many of the grid efforts in Europe, to ensure industrial uptake of grid technology, and these kind of events are important for this to succeed."

The lively event, which showed collaboration between research and scientific communities as well as grid and supercomputing groups, was the first of what could become an annual series, and more details are available at

- Owen Appleton, iSGTW Editor