The Grid is operational – it’s official!

On Friday, 3 October, CERN and its many partners around the world officially marked the end of seven years of development and deployment of the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid (WLCG) and the beginning of continuous operations with an all-day Grid Fest.

Wolfgang von Rüden unveils the WLCG sculpture.

Over 250 grid-enthusiasts gathered in the Globe, including large delegations from the press and from industrial partners, as well as many of the people around the world who manage the distributed operations of the WLCG, which today comprises more than 140 computer centres in 33 countries. As befits a cutting-edge information technology, many participants joined virtually, by video, to mark the occasion.

Les Robertson speaking at the Grid Fest.

Unlike the start-up of the LHC, there was no single moment of high drama during the event. That is because the WLCG is already running at full throttle, handling very large amounts of cosmic ray data coming from the experiments. ATLAS, for example, is currently storing nearly a petabyte of data per month.

At the LHC Grid Fest, Bob Jones highlights the far-reaching uses of grid computing.

To illustrate the global nature of WLCG, the head of the LCG project, Ian Bird, made an impressive live video tour of many of the major sites. This provided a potent reminder of just what a challenge it is to run a global grid service twenty four hours a day: greetings came from data centres as far afield as Melbourne, Mumbai, Taipei and even, courageously, Vancouver, where it was 3:30 in the morning. The enthusiasm of all the virtual participants underlined that the WLCG is very much about people, not just machines.

In his address, the Director-General Robert Aymar highlighted the necessity of computing for studying particle physics. Together with Wolfgang von Rueden, Head of the IT Department, they unveiled a sculpture symbolising the WLCG, a metallic globe with WLCG data centres indicated by light spots made – fittingly – with optical fibres. Les Robertson, who retired in October, was given an ovation for his tireless efforts as the previous head of the LCG project, guiding it from inception to its current, mature state.

While LHC physics was the star scientific discipline of the day, Bob Jones, the CERN-based director of the European Commission (EC) project Enabling Grids for E-sciencE, reminded participants that the high energy physics community is leading the way for many other disciplines that are starting to adopt grid technology. He discussed applications in seismology, atmospheric research, astronomy, fusion and the life sciences.

Antti Peltomäki, EC Deputy Director-General of the Information Society & Media, noted that over €100M had been invested by the EC in grid technology over the last several years, putting Europe in a leading position in this technology.

A session on the contributions of industry to the WLCG highlighted some of the ways the CERN openlab, a partnership with several leading IT companies, has benefitted both CERN and the companies concerned. Intel and Oracle received LHC Computing Awards from the Director-General for their exceptional contributions over many years. HP received a similar award from ALICE last year.

On-site demonstrations, held throughout the day, showed attendees some of these applications live. Demos included the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid, the ALICE experiment, the ATLAS experiment, the CMS experiment, the LHCb experiment, the Health-e-Child project (pediatrics), the ITER project (fusion energy), the Open Science Grid and the WISDOM project (drug discovery).

If you were not able to attend in person, you can see many of the demos online on the ‘Gridcast’, prepared by the EC GridTalk project, at