Computer 'testbed' to help speed up Internet-based computing

Computer 'testbed' to help speed up Internet-based computing

URBANA – Your computer is about to get a lot faster, so fast you won't even notice it.

The University of Illinois has partnered with Yahoo, Intel, Hewlett-Packard and the National Science Foundation to combine 1,024 core computers at each of six sites worldwide, in order to provide a massive amount of computer power to people designing applications to make the Internet more useful.

You probably won't notice it, and you're not supposed to, any more than you have to understand how a phone works in order to use one.

That's what Michael Heath says. He's the head of the UI's computer science department and a lead researcher in this effort to bring supercomputing to the Web.

The National Science Foundation is granting the UI $200,000, and corporate funding will take the local project to the million-dollar mark, Heath said.

It will take about three months to get the project up and running, he said.

The global partnership also includes Singapore's Infocomm Development Authority and Germany's Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

The project creates "testbeds" – combinations of hardware and software that allow creators of applications to take advantage of massive computer power through the Internet.

Heath describes this use of the Internet as a cloud of widely distributed resources that can be accessed in parallel by researchers.

"The fuzziness of a cloud is an apt metaphor," Heath said. "You don't know where the actual computing is taking place."

The Cloud Computing Test-bed can be used to work on systems-level research issues, including automatic resource allocation, scheduling, monitoring and management tasks that arise in processing and responding to large amounts of data, the UI said in a press release.

The proposed research will include such areas as networking, operating systems, virtual machines, distributed systems, data-mining, Web searches, network measurement and multimedia.

In the past, Heath said, computer users have had only the power of their own computers at hand. For instance, to do word processing, you depend on your own copy of Microsoft Word or WordPerfect.

But more recently, such programs are Web-driven, and companies like Google let you use their resources to do word processing.

Computers working in parallel become increasingly important as the Web grows.

People expecting fast results for complex problems have benefited in the past from Moore's Law, in which Intel co-founder Gordon Moore predicted that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit could double about every two years.

"A couple of years ago, Moore's law kind of hit a wall," Heath said, with power and heat issues.

For the consumer, that means, even for everyday applications, the way to get faster now is to use the combined power of computers in parallel, he said.

Some of the applications tried out on testbeds will be important to the average user in a short time, Heath said.

"The consumer benefits, even though the average user doesn't want to think about parallelism," he said. "The ultimate goal is to make information services as transparent as using the telephone."

The equipment will be housed in the Thomas M. Siebel Center for Computer Science at 201 N. Goodwin Ave., U.

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