The UK's first science computing grid will be launched next month, allowing scientists and universities to exchange information and share processing power for large projects.
The e-science grid connects a national centre in Edinburgh to e-science centres at universities around the UK
National e-Science Centre (NeSC) research manager Dave Berry said the first applications will be run in March. "There's still work to do in making [the grid] robust."
"But the infrastructure is there, and it's just low-level engineering work that needs to be done, making sure that centres can communicate through one another's firewalls and setting up the PKI [public key infrastructure] to recognise and authorise people."
Analysts believe grid computing has enormous potential across the public and private sector by allowing organisations to make better use of IT assets. Last year, for instance, Abbey National Treasury Services used grid computing to calculate complex risk assessments.
NeSC was established in April 2001 as a joint project between the University of Glasgow and the University of Edinburgh. The Department of Trade and Industry's Office of Science and Technology has also allocated approximately £200m over five years for the e-science project.
The e-science centres are at Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland; the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester, Newcastle Upon Tyne, and Southampton, in England; the University of Cardiff, in Wales; and the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London.
The UK grid is being developed using Globus 2.0 software from the Globus Project, allowing each centre to connect its own hardware and software set ups and connecting with US centres should be no problem, Berry added.
The UK universities will connect predominantly Linux environments to the grid, along with Sun Solaris, IBM AIX and Hewlett-Packard Tru64 Unix platforms. The hardware being connected includes Sun, SGI Origin and IBM supercomputers.