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April 7, 2008

If you hate the Internet, you will LOVE the GRID! Don’t kill yourself.

The Internet could soon be made obsolete. The scientists who pioneered it have now built a lightning-fast replacement capable of downloading entire feature films within seconds.

At speeds about 10,000 times faster than a typical broadband connection, “the grid” will be able to send the entire Rolling Stones back catalogue from Britain to Japan in less than two seconds.

The latest spin-off from Cern, the particle physics centre that created the web, the grid could also provide the kind of power needed to transmit holographic images; allow instant online gaming with hundreds of thousands of players; and offer high-definition video telephony for the price of a local call.

David Britton, professor of physics at Glasgow University and a leading figure in the grid project, believes grid technologies could “revolutionise” society. “With this kind of computing power, future generations will have the ability to collaborate and communicate in ways older people like me cannot even imagine,” he said.

The power of the grid will become apparent this summer after what scientists at Cern have termed their “red button” day – the switching-on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the new particle accelerator built to probe the origin of the universe. The grid will be activated at the same time to capture the data it generates.

Cern, based near Geneva, started the grid computing project seven years ago when researchers realised the LHC would generate annual data equivalent to 56m CDs – enough to make a stack 40 miles high.

This meant that scientists at Cern – where Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the web in 1989 – would no longer be able to use his creation for fear of causing a global collapse.

This is because the Internet has evolved by linking together a hotchpotch of cables and routing equipment, much of which was originally designed for telephone calls and therefore lacks the capacity for high-speed data transmission.

By contrast, the grid has been built with dedicated fibre optic cables and modern routing centres, meaning there are no outdated components to slow the deluge of data. The 55,000 servers already installed are expected to rise to 200,000 within the next two years.

Professor Tony Doyle, technical director of the grid project, said: “We need so much processing power, there would even be an issue about getting enough electricity to run the computers if they were all at Cern. The only answer was a new network powerful enough to send the data instantly to research centres in other countries.”

That network, in effect a parallel Internet, is now built, using fibre optic cables that run from Cern to 11 centres in the United States, Canada, the Far East, Europe and around the world.

One terminates at the Rutherford Appleton laboratory at Harwell in Oxfordshire.

From each centre, further connections radiate out to a host of other research institutions using existing high-speed academic networks.

It means Britain alone has 8,000 servers on the grid system – so that any student or academic will theoretically be able to hook up to the grid rather than the internet from this autumn.

Ian Bird, project leader for Cern’s high-speed computing project, said grid technology could make the internet so fast that people would stop using desktop computers to store information and entrust it all to the internet.

“It will lead to what’s known as cloud computing, where people keep all their information online and access it from anywhere,” he said.

Computers on the grid can also transmit data at lightning speed. This will allow researchers facing heavy processing tasks to call on the assistance of thousands of other computers around the world. The aim is to eliminate the dreaded “frozen screen” experienced by internet users who ask their machine to handle too much information.

The real goal of the grid is, however, to work with the LHC in tracking down nature’s most elusive particle, the Higgs boson. Predicted in theory but never yet found, the Higgs is supposed to be what gives matter mass.

The LHC has been designed to hunt out this particle – but even at optimum performance it will generate only a few thousand of the particles a year. Analysing the mountain of data will be such a large task that it will keep even the grid’s huge capacity busy for years to come.

Although the grid itself is unlikely to be directly available to domestic internet users, many telecoms providers and businesses are already introducing its pioneering technologies. One of the most potent is so-called dynamic switching, which creates a dedicated channel for internet users trying to download large volumes of data such as films. In theory this would give a standard desktop computer the ability to download a movie in five seconds rather than the current three hours or so.

Additionally, the grid is being made available to dozens of other academic researchers including astronomers and molecular biologists.

It has already been used to help design new drugs against malaria, the mosquito-borne disease that kills 1m people worldwide each year. Researchers used the grid to analyse 140m compounds – a task that would have taken a standard internet-linked PC 420 years.

“Projects like the grid will bring huge changes in business and society as well as science,” Doyle said.

“Holographic video conferencing is not that far away. Online gaming could evolve to include many thousands of people, and social networking could become the main way we communicate.

“The history of the internet shows you cannot predict its real impacts but we know they will be huge.”

30 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2008 5:31 am

    Interesting, but I dont think grid can replace the Internet. However, Grid will shine in the research area.

  2. April 8, 2008 6:49 am

    that’s insane!!!

  3. KIZ-ONE permalink
    April 8, 2008 3:17 pm

    Skynet here we come.
    We need a Sara Connor right now!
    “Come with me if you want to live”

  4. April 8, 2008 3:26 pm

    but of course it will ultimately be used for evil and not good…
    Signs the world is coming to an end

  5. T. Flossin permalink
    April 8, 2008 4:47 pm

    You gotta be playin illseed. You got the Tron screen shots to back you up I see.

  6. Its_BX_NYC_187 permalink
    April 8, 2008 6:35 pm

    That’s Crazy! They Need To Make That Available For The Masses. We’ll Be Able To Send Hole Studio Sessions And Large Files With Out Having To Compress Them And It Taking For Ever To send… That’s What’s Up!

  7. cptn obvious permalink
    April 8, 2008 9:03 pm

    Already saw this, apparently verbatim at:

  8. The Skeez permalink
    April 8, 2008 9:17 pm

    Fuck that, they don’t tell u about the mini black holes they are going to create to try to achieve this. Peep the edit at the end of this story here:

  9. spinningisfun9 permalink
    April 9, 2008 4:29 am

    Wow, that’s amazing.
    The only thing I don’t agree with is the elimination of personal PC’s.
    I for one am not going to trust storing all my information somewhere that is easily accessible to anyone and everyone else. The digital/internet revolution is pretty awesome for the most part, but somet things just don’t need to change.

  10. heypete permalink
    April 9, 2008 5:13 am


    The LHC’s requirements for data processing and transfer may be more than specific internet links can handle, but I suspect that the public internet will keep up with “everyday” demand and will eventually catch up with “The Grid”.

    For example, look at how much faster, cheaper, and better today’s internet is compared with it in the mid-90s.

    I look forward to grid computing and keeping things “in the cloud”, so long as one’s privacy is maintained. It would be nice to not be tied down to a specific piece of hardware to access all of one’s files.

  11. April 9, 2008 5:32 am

    Hey cool. I’m already storing most of my data online anyway..
    Makes sense if I could upload and download it faster.

    Here’s to a future where computers rule the world.

    Skynet’s coming.


  12. April 9, 2008 5:35 am

    This is really fantastic. The web is already beginning to show its age and cloud computing’s benefits are obvious to anyone with online email. Combine this with wireless white space and you have one heck of a major upgrade.

  13. sahabat88 permalink
    April 9, 2008 5:44 am

    good analysis

  14. April 9, 2008 5:57 am

    The grid, or the Internet, could ever replace ME!

  15. Adam permalink
    April 9, 2008 7:02 am



  16. eeegeek permalink
    April 9, 2008 11:05 am

    Is it me, or does this sound like a current technical write up of the concept behind Tron? 😉 That’s ok… I’ve got my Asus EEE, and they’ll not take it away from me!

  17. April 9, 2008 1:11 pm

    souns BIG but give it 10 years before we see it

  18. April 9, 2008 1:17 pm

    wow someone already said it,

    but i was thinking “Skynet is now fully operational”

    crazy stuff

  19. Ervin Sholpnick permalink
    April 9, 2008 6:56 pm

    Imagine the porn you could download?!?!?!?

  20. whatthe permalink
    April 10, 2008 3:30 pm

    Holly Crap – does nobody see whats happening here!!! Can anybody say the BEAST…this is definitely of biblical proportion – 10 years is not that far away. With the way technology has exponentially grown over the past 20 years, I can foresee this technology developing to a relatively mature state of operating capacity within 3 to 5.

    Just the same way the US starting issuing (requiring) social security cards at birth, you can beat this will work into the grand scheme of things in inserting chips at birth…all in the name of security and safety.

    Be afraid, be VERY afraid.

  21. April 10, 2008 8:23 pm

    Sounds like it’s just a bunch of computers hooked up with fiber. The speed is equal to 10G ethernet. Pretty much the same stuff that runs the internet backbone now. It just goes faster because they are using it exclusively. The Internet will probably progress to a point where it is this fast. It’ll just take longer for it to happen to everybody.

  22. April 10, 2008 8:24 pm

    Sounds like normal 10G ethernet to me

  23. April 14, 2008 1:25 pm

    unbelievable. internet getting obsolete? oh, come on!

  24. amlistening permalink
    April 14, 2008 2:24 pm

    If the claimed difference between Grid and current internet is infrastructure: telephone lines VS fiber optics, then broadband connections are already using Fiber Optics and coax cables (not telephone lines). Internet is going to adopt Fiber Optics completely over a period of time am sure.

  25. October 27, 2010 8:30 pm

    desktop computers these days gets obsolete the day that they are shipped considering how fast technology updates`.’


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