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Daphne Siefert-Herron
Manager of Strategic Initiatives, Pervasive Technology Institute at Indiana University

IU to establish FutureGrid collaborative test bed for next-generation scientific supercomputing

See photos and video of the press conference at


September 10, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The future of scientific computing will be developed with the leadership of Indiana University and nine national and international partners as part of a $15 million project largely supported by a $10.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The award will be used to establish FutureGrid—one of only two experimental systems in the NSF Track 2 program that funds the most powerful, next-generation scientific supercomputers in the nation.

FutureGrid is a high performance grid test bed that will allow scientists to work collaboratively to develop and test novel approaches to parallel, grid, and cloud computing. These types of computing have become essential to such lifesaving work as medical and life science modeling and drug discovery, as well as to disciplines ranging from physics and environmental science to economic modeling and forecasting.

"FutureGrid will serve as a proving ground for new distributed computing systems and will open up exciting new avenues for scientific, commercial, and governmental collaboration and research," said Principal Investigator Geoffrey C. Fox, director of the Pervasive Technology Institute (PTI) Digital Science Center and a professor in the IU School of Informatics and Computing at Bloomington. "We envision the grids and clouds of the future not as a single system, but as many linked systems. For this reason we are engaging an incredible set of academic and industry partners throughout the US and in Europe to participate in FutureGrid."

Cloud technologies—such as Amazon Web Services and the open-source Eucalyptus system—are increasingly used to support online resources used by researchers and the public, and have the potential to make a significant impact on the 21st century economy. The US federal government is also exploring the use of cloud technologies to better serve the public—including the proposed development of a federal computing cloud—and government officials are working with industry partners to establish standards for cloud computing.

"Being a partner in FutureGrid is an exciting and unique opportunity to be at the forefront of shaping the future of US science and computing in the coming decades," said José Fortes, professor and BellSouth Eminent Scholar, at the University of Florida. "Our project team includes some of the most innovative leaders in the field of high performance computing today."

Partners in the FutureGrid project include: Purdue University, San Diego Supercomputer Center at University of California San Diego, University of Chicago/Argonne National Labs, University of Florida, University of Southern California Information Sciences Institute, University of Tennessee Knoxville, University of Texas at Austin/Texas Advanced Computing Center, University of Virginia, and the Center for Information Services and GWT-TUD from Technische Universtität Dresden.

Though cloud computing is rapidly growing in business, government, and in support of online services for the public, it is still a fledgling technology. Craig Stewart, executive director of the Pervasive Technology Institute, said "Experimental platforms such as FutureGrid will allow researchers to significantly improve the security and robustness of cloud computing, as well as to explore new ways in which it can be used to support science and industry. It will be a cyberinfrastructure for distributed computing research, letting scientists discover what sorts of distributed and cloud computing environments are best matched to various scientific and engineering research challenges."

"One way of looking at the FutureGrid is to think of it as an 'experiment factory' in which supercomputers can be interconnected in a myriad of different ways to find out which connections and software combinations work together and which do not," said Brad Wheeler, IU vice president for information technology and CIO. "The ultimate goal is to create a system that researchers can use to most effectively match cyberinfrastructure and scientific needs in ways that help us make new discoveries most effectively."

The FutureGrid test bed will be composed of a high-speed network connected to distributed clusters of high performance computers and will be linked to the TeraGrid—the NSF's national cyberinfrastructure of high performance computing resources for scientific research. FutureGrid enables systematic reproducible development, testing, and benchmarking of software systems and application codes. It will go one important step further than other grids, however, using virtualization technology that will allow the test bed to support a wide range of operating systems.

FutureGrid allows researchers to experiment at all levels, including customizing network protocols and experimenting with new middleware. By using virtual machines running on real hardware, Future Grid will allow scientists to have full control over their testing environments without interfering with other users. Each virtual environment will consists of exactly the software that the scientist needs for an experiment and no more, reducing the amount of complexity found in current systems and allowing computer scientists to do controlled and reproducible experiments. This approach will create a safer, more secure and efficient means to explore emerging approaches to computing and data analysis.

Scientists will have the ability to pursue research interactively and to collaborate internationally, creating unprecedented potential for scientific discovery and innovation as they explore new uses for cloud technologies in science and engineering. FutureGrid will also be available to students at numerous universities in order to encourage collaboration and familiarize the next generation of knowledge workers with these technologies.

"This award is a high point in nearly a dozen years of outstanding accomplishments made by Indiana University in the area of advanced information technology," said IU President Michael McRobbie. "It puts IU at the forefront of the development of both university and national cyberinfrastructure. This was accomplished through a combination of support from the National Science Foundation, State support, and support from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., along with the exceptional work of IU faculty, staff, and students."

About Pervasive Technology Institute

Pervasive Technology Institute (PTI) at Indiana University is a world-class organization dedicated to the development and delivery of innovative information technology to advance research, education, industry, and society. Supported in part by a $15 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., PTI is built upon a spirit of collaboration and brings together researchers and technologists from a range of disciplines and organizations, including the IU School of Informatics and Computing at Bloomington, the IU Maurer School of Law, and University Information Technology Services at Indiana University.

About the Indiana University School of Informatics

Founded in 2000 as the first School of its kind in the United States, the Indiana University School of Informatics is dedicated to research and teaching across a broad range of computing and information technology, with emphases on science, applications, and societal implications. The School includes the School of Informatics at IUPUI and the School of Informatics and Computing at Bloomington, where programs include computer science and informatics. The School administers a variety of bachelor and masters degree programs in computer science and informatics, as well as PhD programs in computer science, and the first-ever PhD in informatics. The School is dedicated to excellence in education and research, to partnerships that bolster economic development and entrepreneurship, and to increasing opportunities for women and underrepresented minorities in computing and technology. For more information, visit

The FutureGrid project is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation titled "High Performance Computing System Acquisition: Towards a Petascale Computing Environment for Science and Engineering" under NSF Award Number OCI-0910812. IU's participation as a TeraGrid resource provider is funded by NSF Award Number 0504075. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.