EPA works with IBM on grids

The Environmental Protection Agency is linking with IBM on a major new grid computing program aimed at improving air pollution modeling and environmental risk assessments.

Environmental Protection Agency officials are linking with IBM Corp. on a major new grid computing program aimed at improved air pollution modeling and environmental risk assessments, and whose grid capabilities may be offered as a service in the future.

EPA officials recently completed a pilot study to determine the feasibility of using grid computing and Linux to help the EPA and state agencies with environmental modeling and prediction.

Officials at IBM and Computer Sciences Corp. jointly conducted the pilot, which included the use of the Grid Toolbox, a collection of open-standards software from IBM, Red Hat Inc. Linux Enterprise 2.1 and Avaki Corp. Enterprise Information Integration software.

The pilot was done with New York state during the spring and summer as a proof-of-concept, said Peter Durant, associate director for information management in EPA's office of research and development. There have been other pilots also with the 13-state Western Regional Air Partnership and with North Carolina, he said.

Agency officials are now looking to expand that work to a production system using IBM eServer pSeries supercomputers and providing Grid services for other federal and state researchers and trusted partners.

"This work has opened doors for us on collaborative efforts and our ability to work with various states and other organizations," Durant said. "We just need to work out the business model."

EPA "has been running at 90 miles per hour" since the beginning of the year to get this program up and running, Durant said.

EPA officials have previously described how researchers have traditionally competed for time on its high end computing resources. Grid computing will allow them in future to tap unused processing capacity on local and remote capacity and allow a better distribution of data storage, they believe.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

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