Discovery Guides Areas


Grid Computation: the Fastest Supercomputer in the World
(Released November 2006)

  by Chao-Hsu Yao  


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To perform grid computation, the process must be divisible into several subprocesses and run in parallel. The following are some of famous projects that have been designed for grid computation.

♦Human Genome Project (HGP)

The human genome is composed of 24 distinct chromosomes with about 3 billion DNA base pairs organized into 20,000~25,000 genes [1]. To identify these genes and determine the sequences of 3 billion DNA base pairs, running a computer simulation would be expensive and time consuming. Coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Institute of Health (NIH), the Human Genome Project was completed in 2003, three years ahead of the target goal. The institutes involved in this research are Wellcome Trust, Sanger Centre, and HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee. The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute has accomplished almost 1/3 of the total work. The project identified about 20,000~25,000 genes in human DNA, determined the sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA, stored this information in databases, improved tools for data analysis, transferred related technologies to the private sector, and addressed the ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI) that may arise from the project [2].
computer screen for proteome folding project
Graphic interface for the world community grid

♦Human Proteome Folding Project (HPF)

After the Human Genome Project was completed, scientists wanted to understand the function of human proteins, which affect human health, to discover the cure for diseases such as AIDS and cancer. Today, only the function and structure of 30 % of human proteins are known [9]. To identify all human proteins could take up to 1,000,000 years using the most advanced personal computer to perform the analysis. Therefore, the Human Proteome Folding Project (HPF) was started and ran on two computational grids; World Computing Grid (WCG) [10] and United Devices' [9], which tried to identify all human proteins' functions and structures in a short time. The institutes that participated in this research include the Institute for Systems Biology, the University of Washington, Seattle, and the IBM Corporation. For more information about HPF, visit Institute for Systems Biology website:
♦World Community Grid
The World Community Grid is an experimental project led by IBM, which accepts volunteer members. It is a non-profit organization, which welcomes anyone in the world to donate some computing resources when staying online but doing nothing. It supports all kinds of research that benefits humanity, at no cost. To participate in World Community Grid you can download the software from their website ( and install it. The software is free and secure. The current projects running are Help Defeat Cancer, FightAIDS@Home, and Human Proteome Folding - Phase 2 [5]. You may also submit your project proposal to them by filling out the application form online.
♦Computational Chemistry
Chemical reactions or molecular behavior can be huge and complicated processes. Chemists have been trying to determine molecular structure, simulate molecular behavior, and predict the reaction processes. Computational chemistry has been operational for a long time; however, some chemistry problems, like quantum mechanics, would take hundreds of years to simulate on a personal computer. Therefore, grid computation plays an important role in computational chemistry, which not only saves equipment costs but also processing time. Computational Chemistry Grid (CCG, is one of the most important virtual organizations, which provides all necessary software and resources for computational chemistry.
♦Business Computation
Grid computation is not only used in science, but also in business computation, where all corporate resources can be pooled so they can be processed efficiently in parallel, according to the business demand. Based on this design, enterprise level business-to-business (B2B) collaborations will be the virtual organization, which handles resources management [3].

Oracle has developed the most famous database management system in the world, and most enterprises like its reliable data management ability and powerful data query process. The Oracle 10g, in which g stands for "grid," has become the first database management system for grid computation. The Oracle 10g runs all database systems in a virtual environment (grid) where all systems are considered a resource pool, using resources efficiently and dynamically for business needs [6].
♦SETI@Home Project
Searching for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), is a compelling scientific research topic. SETI@Home, directed by UC Berkeley, utilizes grid computation technology to analyze space-based radio signals collected from a radio telescope, at Arecibo, Puerto Rico. This project uses a new platform, Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC), to support the research. This platform will automatically update without having to download new versions.

Sun Microsystems Inc. has made a great contribution to the SETI@Home project by providing UC Berkeley with required equipment and software [8]. By downloading a screensaver program bundled with required software, almost a half million personal computers have been connected, through this technology, to perform grid computation for the SETI@Home project.

♦Other Applications
Grid computation can also be used in financial modeling, earthquake simulation, and climate/weather modeling, which are complex processes requiring an intricate infrastructure. A dynamic grid environment, which can perform parallel processing under a collaborative network, must be created to deliver the information [7].

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