The European Centre for Nuclear Research, or CERN, in Geneva has chosen IBM to help design a successor to the World Wide Web. The computer giant will build the first prototypes for the system, dubbed "DataGrid".
CERN has been at the forefront of the computer revolution since the early 1990s when a team, led by Tim Berners-Lee, came up with the idea of the Web, making the Internet available to a wider public.
The impetus for DataGrid is the CERN's Large Hadron Collider - a huge new particle accelerator, which is under construction and scheduled to begin operating in 2005.
The Collider will generate enormous amounts of data, far more than the laboratory's own computers can handle. To process this vast reservoir of information, CERN's scientists came up with the idea of distributing the data among a network of supercomputers.
Researchers all over the world are now tackling the design of the "DataGrid", but CERN has kept overall control of the project.
IBM was chosen to develop two regional grids, connecting two groups of universities; one in Britain and the other in the Netherlands. The company is the first industrial heavyweight to join the project, which until now has been solely in the hands of the scientists.
The "DataGrid" will eventually link a large number of computers with high-speed connections, giving access to both data and processing power. Scientists will benefit first and foremost from the increased computer power, particularly those working in particle physics, climatology or genetics.
Private computer users should also reap some benefits from these huge databanks. A person buying a block of land to build a house could, for example, access the weather data for that area over the past ten years.
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