Colorado State University is piloting an ambitious, national animal identification system that will rely on leading-edge, grid-computing technology to process massive amounts of animal tracking data. The project, the first to use Colorado State’s new Colorado Grid Computing Initiative, or COGrid, is funded through more than $2 million in grants from the Colorado Institute of Technology and additional funding and equipment from Sun Microsystems, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Colorado Department of Agriculture and Hitachi Data Systems.
The grid computing identification system will enable researchers to track the travels of a specific animal in seconds or minutes, instead of the weeks it currently takes. In case of an outbreak of a disease such as bovine spongiform encephalitis, or BSE (also called mad cow disease), having a national database of cattle would allow officials to find out where a cow has been at all times from birth to death. Officials could identify all of the cow’s co-residents for immediate testing, limiting the spread of the disease.
Grid computing treats computational power as a utility, the same way that an electrical grid delivers electricity. In the case of COGrid, two clusters of Sun servers, made up of 48 CPUs, are coupled with 2.5TB of High Availability and High Performance disk storage from Hitachi Data Systems to create a computing "node." The processing and storage power of the grid is then available remotely via broadband connections to handle any sort of computing task.
"It takes significant computational capability to conduct such a project, and that’s where COGrid comes in," said Patrick Burns, associate vice president for information and instructional technology at Colorado State. "COGrid is a statewide computing framework that we hope will ultimately provide high-performance grid computing capabilities to all areas and all citizens of the state."
COGrid was launched with $1.8 million in technology donated by Sun and Hitachi Data Systems through the grant from the Colorado Institute of Technology, which also donated $50,000 for operational support. The animal identification pilot project is underwritten by a $350,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
The plan for COGrid is to expand to become an interconnected "grid of grids" similar to the node at Colorado State. COGrid could be connected to sensors and large databases that support research and development and Homeland Security applications.
"The idea of grid computing is to have shared resources among multiple users," said COGrid Director Bob Marcus. "What’s unique about COGrid is the breadth of its vision, including academic, industrial, governmental, education and public users."
Grid-like computing has existed before. For example, supercomputers along with smaller computers have been connected to power-specific scientific research projects with significant mathematical components, such as earthquake prediction or high-energy physics. COGrid, however, is one of the first general-purpose, high-performance computing grids, the same type of grid that companies like Sun and Hitachi Data Systems expect to be widespread for businesses and consumers over the next several years.
"Grid computing is the next, natural stage of evolution in information technology," said Terry Erdle, Sun’s vice president for Global Manageability Services Practice. "Instead of every business or university having to buy and maintain its own expensive data center, grid computing lets them buy only the computing power they need at any time, at a transparent price."
"The COGrid is a leading example of how advancements in storage technology are powering leading-edge applications which enable diverse and autonomous groups to leverage a common computing infrastructure when they need it without having to own it," said Darrel Kent, senior director, Hitachi Data Systems. "We are excited to participate in this project. It demonstrates our Application Optimized Storage solutions in action, integrating hardware, software, and services to address application requirements such as performance, availability, functionality and cost."
COGrid is being built for a wide range of users and applications, and with the goal of eventually becoming accessible to all Colorado citizens. Its three major objectives are to enhance Colorado’s educational system, enhance the state’s high-tech industry and improve the state’s governing efficiency.
"It gives us a unique capability at the forefront of technology," Burns said. "That has implications not only in what we can use these systems to do, but also in training our students in the most advanced, current technology."
Visit http://cogrid.colostate.edu for more information about the Colorado Grid Computing Initiative.
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