Global science

10.07.08 -

Science has no geographical boundaries. That's why international research teams working together to discover innovative solutions to complex problems of global importance are sharing more easily by using powerful distributed systems of computers, data storage, visualization displays, and instruments at collaborating sites around the globe.

The Global Lambda Integrated Facility (GLIF) is one such system. GLIF is an international virtual organization that promotes lambda networking to support data-intensive scientific research. The partnership includes network providers, network engineers, computer scientists, and computational scientists who are developing new optical network-based computing paradigms and cyberinfrastructure. GLIF participants—including IllinoisWave, which is comprised of NCSA and the University of Illinois—also exchange information to learn from each other's experiences, seek to establish best practice; work together to develop, test, and implement new lambda networking technologies, middleware, and applications; and generally collaborate to bring the technology forward.

Participants voluntarily provide the optical wavelengths (also known as lambda grids) that are interconnected at GLIF Open Lightpath Exchanges, or GOLEs. GOLEs have the equipment necessary to interconnect and establish end-to-end lightpaths, which are used by the international research teams to meet the needs of very large-scale e-science applications in fields like physics, astronomy, earth science, bio-informatics and the environmental sciences. In the coming decade, e-science will require distributed petaflops computing, exabyte storage, and terabit networks.

GLIF map

GLIF map

Thanks to NCSA's Robert Patterson, GLIF has a new world map that showcases its infrastructure. Patterson, a member of NCSA's Advanced Visualization Laboratory, created the GLIF Map 2008 visualization using an Earth image provided by NASA. Data for the map was compiled by Maxine D. Brown of the Electronic Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Although the previous map was only two years old, the infrastructure has grown as participation has increased. GLIF now includes national research and education networks, countries, consortia, institutions, and individual research initiatives on five continents. Participation in GLIF is open to any organization that subscribes to the GLIF vision and can contribute to the activities. Administrative support is provided by the Trans-European Research and Education Networking Association.

Funding for the GLIF map was provided by GLIF and the National Science Foundation.