Private companies, universities and government agencies are joining forces to bring scientific research into the era of "cloud computing," the name for massive clusters of computers connected through the Internet.
The University of Washington has won three recent awards from the National Science Foundation related to cloud computing. Two of the grants will fund projects examining ocean climate simulations and analyzing astronomical images. Both provide tools so researchers can use cloud computing to easily interact with the massive datasets that are becoming more and more common in science.
A third grant to the UW provides curriculum and training to teach cloud computing.
The projects are funded through NSF's Cluster Exploratory program, which will access a cloud datacenter established for educational use in 2007 through a partnership between Google, IBM and six academic institutions, of which the UW was the first member. NSF joined the group last year.
Climate modelers are beginning to use computer simulations in more exploratory ways, said Bill Howe, a researcher at the UW's eScience Institute, a newly established group to support data-intensive research at the university. Instead of running a simulation to test a single hypothesis, climate scientists are now running long-term simulations and then sifting through tens of thousands of gigabytes of resulting data to discover trends.
"Using current tools, you can comfortably analyze and visualize datasets that fit in the computer underneath your desk," Howe said. "But you can't comfortably and interactively explore datasets at this new scale."
Howe's project aims to provide that interactivity for tens of thousands of gigabytes of simulation results. He created a tool, GridFields, to visualize the polygonal mesh of climate simulation output, and is now working to redesign GridFields to be efficient in a cloud computing environment. Collaborators at the University of Utah have an awa
|Contact: Hannah Hickey|
University of Washington