Statistic of the week - WLCG rates No. 2 in The Times’ 2008 technology stories
Grid of 100,000 computers heralds new internet dawn reads the headline of the TimesOnline article of 29 September 2008, about the World-wide LHC Computing Grid. This article ranked number 2 in the journal’s top 50 most-read technology stories of the year, trailing only Billion pixel panoramas from your own camera.
This is both good news and bad: it's wonderful to have so many people curious about the grid. On the other hand, while much of the article accurately represents what the LCG is and what it can do, some aspects of it are misleading.
For example, calling the LCG “the Grid” is like calling google.com “the Web”. The LCG acts as a metagrid, in a sense. It brings together the contributed computing power and data storage of many international, national and regional grids to process LHC data. But it by no means integrates all grids.
Furthermore, “the grid” was not invented at CERN. Rather, the acknowledged “fathers of grid computing” hail from the University of Chicago and the University of Southern California. It is true that the particle physics community recognized the potential of the grid, and has thus driven much of the international development, as discussed in Mega grid for mega science, iSGTW, 3 September 2008.
Nor has the LCG cost €500 million (660 million USD)—a figure with no basis.
And the movies, sigh. . . The article states that the grid has the “kind of power required to download movies in seconds, and the ability to make high-definition video phone calls for the same price as a local call.” Well, what's meant by “power”? Downloads require bandwidth, not processing power. Many grid sites are connected by high-bandwidth network connections, so they probably could download Gone with the Wind pretty quickly. But they've got other fish to fry, and the general public is unlikely to see this kind of bandwidth any time soon.
But, please, go ahead and read the article if you haven’t. You don't want to be the only one on your block who’s out of the loop!
iSGTW’s 8 October 2008 issue, the first following the 3 October announcement, included Celebrating the development of the grid and Stateside celebration at the bi-continental LHC Grid Fest, reports on the official start-up of the World-wide LHC Computing Grid (WLCG).