US infrastructure for cyber science sees Xsede succeed TeraGrid

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A partnership of 17 US institutions led by the University of Illinois's National Center for Supercomputing Applications has launched a replacement for the ten-year-old TeraGrid project: the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE).

Over the past decade, more than 10,000 scientists have used the TeraGrid to complete thousands of research projects in fields such as earthquake engineering, materials science, medicine, epidemiology, genomics, astronomy, and biology. 'Enabling scientific discovery though enhanced researcher productivity is our goal, and XSEDE's ultimate reason for being,' explained Barry Schneider, a programme director in the Office of Cyber-infrastructure at the US National Science Foundation.

NSF will fund the XSEDE project for five years, at $121 million. To be truly effective cyberscience 'requires a cyberinfrastructure of local computing hardware at sites around the country, advanced supercomputers at larger centres, generally available software packages, and fast networks. Ideally, they should all work together so the researcher can move from local to national resources transparently and easily,' Schneider added.

'The TeraGrid really helped invent the concept of having digital resources like supercomputers, tools, and expertise spread across the country and allowing researchers to easily use them,' said John Towns of the University of Illinois's National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Towns will lead the XSEDE project having had a variety of roles in the TeraGrid project.

But 'this is much more than just the same old resources that TeraGrid offered', he continued. 'XSEDE will take the next step by lowering technological barriers to access and use. We are creating a distributed cyberinfrastructure in which researchers can establish private, secure environments that have all the resources, services, and collaboration support they need to be productive.' This will include outreach to new communities that haven't traditionally used cyberinfrastructure and other digital services.

Initially, XSEDE will support 16 supercomputers across the country. It also includes other specialised digital resources and services to complement these computers. These resources will be expanded throughout the lifetime of the project.