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iSGTW - 22 September 2010

Project profile: PL-Grid

Legacies of older architectures exist along side the new in Poland, and not just in research computing: Here contemporary architecture in Warsaw reflects the past. Image courtesy Jaime Silva, Flickr, under Creative Commons license

Beyond being at the geographic center of Europe, Poland plays a central, leading role in Europe’s grid community. In 2009, Poland became the first country to form an independent and autonomous National Grid Initiative — an operational unit, based in a single country, set up to run a national computing infrastructure to support the European Grid Infrastructure (EGI).
With the close of the Enabling Grids for E-sciencE project, the health of the EGI is dependent upon such NGIs — and the technical process developed by Poland to move away from the parent EGEE ROC is a model other countries will look to. PLGrid itself is one of a series of NGIs to form as legal entities over the last few years, particularly in South Eas

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Feature - GPU-based cheap supercomputing coming to an end

Intel’s Sandy Bridge architecture places the processor and GPU on the same chip.
Image courtesy Greg Pfister.

Nvidia’s CUDA has been hailed as “Supercomputing for the Masses,” and with good reason – amazing speedups ranging from 10x through hundreds have been reported on scientific / technical code. CUDA has become a darling of academic computing and a major player in DARPA’s Exascale program, but performance alone does not account for that popularity: price clinches the deal. For all that computing power, they’re incredibly cheap. As Sharon Glotzer of UMich noted, “Today you can get two gigaflops for $500. That is ridiculous.” It is indeed. And it’s only possible because CUDA is subsidized by sinking the fixed costs of its development into the high volumes of Nvidia’s mass market low-end GPUs.
Unfortunately, that subsidy won’t last forever; its end is n

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Feature - Surfing for earthquakes

Aftermath of Haiti earthquake. Image courtesy UN Development Program

A better understanding of the ground beneath our feet may come from research by seismologists and an organization called RAPID—a group of computer scientists at the University of Edinburgh.
The very structure of the Earth controls how earthquakes travel and the amount of damage they cause. Therefore, a clear picture of this structure would be extremely valuable to earthquake planners — but it requires the analysis of huge amounts of data.
To help, the RAPID team developed a system that performs the seismologists’ data-crunching, and have made it easy to use by relying on an interface familiar to all scientists: a web browser.
Seismologists measure vibrations in the Earth at hundreds of observatories across Europe, which allows them to study earthquakes as they travel across countries and continents. By measuring the speed and strength of the vibrations at d

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