Grids, Clouds, and the Internet

There have been quite a few articles out this week describing a powerful new Grid that could replace the internet. Some of these articles are rather confusing so here are a few definitions and links:

A Grid is a software construct that runs over the traditional internet to enable organizations to share computing and information resources in a secure, highly efficient manner. Grid infrastructure is also being developed to do this over next generation hybrid networks (see below) for science and this new Grid infrastructure includes the CERN project currently in the headlines. For more on Grids go to

Cloud computing is a relatively new term for a subset of grid computing that is promoted as “on-demand” computing or a way to “rent” computing resources without investing in new infrastructure. There is a wide array of companies forming around this concept. The New York Times published a good update on commercial cloud computing on April 7, 2008. (

Next Generation hybrid optical and packet networks are being developed to handle the massive amounts of scientific data (millions of gigabytes per day) being generated by research facilities around the world such as what will be produced by the CERN Large Hadron Collider ( The infrastructure for these next gen networks are being deployed nationally over 13,000 miles of dedicated fiber. The basic connectivity package for direct connectors is expected to initially include two 10 Gbps waves, one for IP and one for point-to-point optical services. The capacity is expected to be scalable to 100Gbps. It will also provide complete control of the optical layer and highly granular lightpath services that can be provisioned dynamically with short-term and long-term waves, as well as on demand or advanced reservation “lightpath” scheduling. In the U.S., a partnership between ESnet ( and Internet2 ( is deploying such a next generation network for the research community. This network will be used for US participants in the CERN project.

A great deal of research goes into developing the tools necessary to manage data transfers and support the evolution of high speed networks for science. A good summary of the issues that networks for science face in this transition can be found in the document, “Science-Driven R&D; Requirements for ESnet: Report from ESnet R&D; Workshop, April 23-24, 2007,” which is available at

Related Link

DOE’s Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research – delivering the tools to advance understanding. The ASCR mission is to discover, develop, and deploy the computational and networking tools that enable researchers in the scientific disciplines to analyze, model, simulate, and predict complex phenomena important to the Department of Energy.