North Carolina aims for grid computing

North Carolina agencies, universities and companies plan to develop a statewide grid computing network that a soon-to-be-released study says could add $10 billion to the state's economy by 2010.

MCNC, a private nonprofit corporation formed in 1980 to push technology-led growth in the state, this week announced the launch of enterprise grid computing services as the first component of North Carolina's statewide infrastructure, one of the first in the nation.

MCNC has committed to spend $6 million over the next three years to develop the services, said Scott Yates, corporate communications director for the corporation.

Ultimately, MCNC officials expect a distributed "partner grid" that will link enterprise grid resources in multiple locations across institutional firewalls, he said.

North Carolina's grid computing initiative will use the existing high-speed North Carolina Research and Education Network, operated by MCNC, as the backbone linking the various enterprise grids.

"We've had a lot of experience with supercomputing, and we think this will be a definite advance on that," Yates said. "It's more cost-effective to deploy clusters of computers throughout a grid (to tackle problems). People are not locked into the fixed cost of traditional supercomputers, plus grids provide flexibility and the ability to add different technologies as they become available."

Grid computing also doesn't depend on applications running on particular platforms, he noted.

A report on the potential impact of the initiative was sponsored by the Rural Internet Access Authority and written by Bob Cohen, president of Cohen Communications Group and a fellow at the Economic Strategy Institute. Cohen will present the report at an invitation-only forum being held this week at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

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

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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