By seizing the opportunities enabled by Grid technology, the European
Commission is making significant strides toward its ambitious goal to
transform the European Union into the most competitive, knowledge-based
economy in the world by the year 2010.
Europe is putting a lot of effort and money into Grid computing to
build a next-generation IT infrastructure that enables researchers and
businesses to better share knowledge and resources. These investments
are creating an environment in which all of Europe's scientific and
technological capital can be combined to improve European
competitiveness and quality of life.
The European Grid Conference in Amsterdam Science Park in February
showcased the progress and prospects of Grid computing in science and
industry. The three main tracks of the conference were on scientific
topics, business and industry, and on European and national Grid
projects. The sessions provided a great overview and insight on the
current status of Grid computing in Europe, from the research,
development and deployment points of view.
Since 2000, the European Commission has been financing Grid research,
then under the fifth research framework program (FP5) with more than 50
million Euros, as part of the European Union's Information Society
Technologies (IST) research (http://www.cordis.lu/ist/results). In FP5,
the focus was mainly on technology development and application pilots.
The main projects in FP5 were the European Data Grid, GridLab,
EUROGrid, CROSSGrid and DATATAG.
In FP6, beginning in 2002 and extending to 2006, the European Union is
funding Grid research with more than 140 million Euros, following a
technology push/application pull approach (i.e., developing the
underlying technologies and Grid-enabling "real-world" applications).
The crucial enabling infrastructure for the current research Grid
projects is GEANT, the world's most powerful research network which
links more than 3,000 research institutions across Europe.
In the first phase, the European Union has launched several significant
Grid initiatives which help structure the Grid infrastructures in
Europe and build upon the already established GEANT infrastructure,
most notably EGEE (Enabling Grids for E-Science in Europe) and DEISA
(operating a distributed/Grid terascale supercomputing facility across
In 2004, the EU has approved another 12 FP6 Grid projects, among them
four major projects with a focus on Grid infrastructure technologies
that will create a critical mass of expertise and resources from across
- CoreGrid is a "network of excellence" addressing longer term Grid
research, creating the foundations for the next-generation Grids toward
2010 and beyond. The project brings together existing Grid research
communities by creating virtual centers of excellence.
- NextGrid is an integrated project focusing on the underlying
technologies of the Next Generation Grid, aiming to deliver a new Grid
architecture by the end of the decade. The work addresses security and
business models, taking into account requirements from sectors such as
finance and media.
- Akogrimo is developing mobile Grid architectures and services.
Building on Europe's strengths in mobile communications, the project
will demonstrate a vision of dynamic virtual organizations in pilot
applications in e-health and e-learning.
- SIMDAT is an integrated project developing generic Grid
technologies for industry in the areas of data integration,
collaboration and knowledge discovery. The focus is on the use of Grids
to solve complex problems in important sectors such as aerospace,
automotive, pharmacology and meteorology.
In addition, seven smaller projects (K-WF Grid, UniGrids, HPC4U,
inteliGrid, OntoGrid, DataMining Grid and Provenance) focus on specific
targets, such as knowledge extraction, workflows, data mining,
collaboration, trust and security.
Finally, there is GridCoord, which has been established to support the
coordination of the national Grid programs. There are currently (to my
knowledge) 15 different national and regional Grid initiatives in
Europe funded with several hundred million Euros at national levels and
each with a potential tendency to "re-invent the wheel" of Grid
computing. GridCoord is an important initiative to accelerate these
initiatives by avoiding duplication and fragmentation.
Among these national projects is, most notably, the UK e-Science
Program, initiated in 2000 by the UK Department of Trade and Industry,
and led by champions John Taylor and Tony Hey. The key elements of the
program are: building a national network of regional Grid centers;
developing generic Grid middleware; supporting e-Science projects; and
collaborating in international projects. The DTI funding explicitly
requires matching industrial contributions. This approach led to an
astonishingly early and strong involvement of industry and a high
interest in the United Kingdom of spanning e-Science and e-Business
with Grid services.
The UK e-Science projects have been supported by investments of more
than 118 million pounds so far, resulting in a vast variety of Grid
research, middleware, applications and industry projects. Examples
include: DAME (Distributed Aircraft Maintenance Environment); GridCast
(Grid for television/radio broadcasting); RiskGrid (for risk assessment
calculations in financial services); GRIA (Grid Resources for
Industrial Applications); MyGrid (a Grid portal for Bioinformatics
research); and OGSA-DAI (Grid Resources for data access and
Recently, the Open Middleware Infrastructure Institute (OMII) has been
established at the University of Southampton to become the source for
reliable, interoperabl, and open-source Grid middleware, ensuring the
continued success of Grid-enabled e-Science in the United Kingdom.
As early as in May 2002, British Prime Minister Tony Blair stated that "the UK Grid intends to
make access to computing power, data repositories and experimental
facilities as easy as the Web makes access to information."
Other nations are catching up. At GGF12 in Berlin in the spring of
2004, the German Minister for Education and Research announced a
five-year, 100-million-Euro e-Science program. Germany started as early
as 1996 with the development of UNICORE, a uniform access
infrastructure connecting German supercomputer and research centers.
Germany is now investing a larger portion of the 100 million Euros in
the development of D-Grid, a countrywide general Grid research
infrastructure and Grid services initiative, along with several
(vertical) community Grids for community-specific middleware and
Grid-enabled applications that focus on specific research areas.
Other national and regional Grid initiatives are: the French Grid5000
project and e-Toile projects; the Italian GRID.IT; the DutchGrid and the 40-million-Euro Dutch VL-e project to
develop a virtual laboratory for e-Science in the Netherlands; the Grid-Ireland
MarineGrid, CosmoGrid and WebCom-G projects; the NorduGrid with its
Advanced Resource Connector (ARC) Grid middleware used by SweGrid,
Estonian Grid, M-Grid in Finland, the Danish Production Grid and
others; the Austrian Grid Initiative with focus on infrastructure,
middleware and applications, and its ASKALON Grid application
development and computing environment; Poland's PROGRESS Grid,
combining resources in Krakow, Poznan, Lodz and other cities via its
powerful PIONEER network; and the SEE-Grid for South Eastern European
Grid-enabled e-Infrastructure Development, with partners from Greece,
Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Hungary and Yugoslavia.
So, what makes Europe so different from other national and
international Grid research projects? While early Grid initiatives in
Europe where mostly unrelated point efforts (as are still many Grid
projects around the world today), my impression from the European Grid
Conference in Amsterdam is that, first and foremost, Europe now has a
long-term, coordinated and shared Grid R&D vision, mission,
strategy, roadmap and funding, driven by the European Commission's IST
Framework Programmes 5, 6 and 7 (the latter will start in 2006) and
hosted by its Directorate Generale (DG) for Information Society.
The 15 national Grid initiatives (which might appear at first glance to
be somewhat unrelated) typically consider what already exists on the
European and international level and strive to avoid spending money on
re-inventing the Grid wheels. In addition, there is GridCoord, which
helps to coordinate many of the national and European Grid projects.
Estimating the total annual funding is difficult because of the many
Grid-related projects in Europe, but it is certainly well over 100
Europe has embraced the notion of a "Worldwide Grid for Research", as
expressed in the e-Infrastructure's Reflection Group White Paper. For
Europe, the "Worldwide Grid" will form the basis of the Information and
Knowledge Society by providing or enabling many diverse elements:
virtual collaborative environments; tools for education and research;
planning and simulation tools for complex problem solving; virtual
environments for medical treatment; storage and analysis of
high-resolution data, pictures and video; providing access to massive
scientific databases for disciplines from bio-informatics and
bio-chemistry to meteorology, physics and astronomy; and non-scientific
databases for cultural heritage, museum collections and many more.
The Grid, for Europe, is far more than resource sharing. It is a big
step forward to build the Cyberinfrastructure for a united research community tackling the grand
challenges of our universe. It is a coordinated, single economic engine
preparing to compete with Asia and the United States. And it is a
commitment, through the advancement of next-generation technology, to
improve the quality of life for every citizen in Europe.
As with every attempt to describe a complex field in simple words, this
article lacks many details. For example, this article doesn't mention
at all the Grid initiatives of the early adopters in industry. Also, there is a lack of mentioning all the other great
Grid projects in Europe, especially the courageous early ones like the
FP4 Metacomputing projects in the mid 1990s; Unicore (started in 1996);
the White Rose Grid in 2001; the bold commercial start-ups like GridXpert,
GridSystems and Gridwise; and certainly all the hard work (mostly behind the
scenes) from the European Commission's DG for Information Society.