Ellen Perlman was a GOVERNING staff writer and technology columnist.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
West Virginia is buying into a very 21st-century economic development engine. A few weeks ago, it authorized funding to develop the first state-sponsored, public grid computing effort.
Grid computing harnesses the muscle of idle, Internet-connected computers and information sources to create a virtual supercomputer. It can drive innovation by giving companies and researchers access to powerful cyber infrastructure at a fraction of the usual costs. Scientific and engineering companies and industries such as movie animation that have a voracious appetite for computational power are potential grid customers.
All totaled, grid computing should attract research dollars to West Virginia, says Amy Beaudry, program manager for the state's Global Grid Exchange. The exchange, which lies at the heart of the state's supercomputer effort, is, Beaudry explains, "an online marketplace where you can buy grid computational power by the slice."
The grid opened for business on December 1 and is available to the public via the Internet. The state donated its own excess computer capacity to help power the project. Two hundred regional technology companies and businesses that are part of a high-tech consortium in West Virginia were also involved in getting the grid started and are likely to be early adopters of grid technology. "They will have a competitive advantage for a while to develop products, do research and capture research dollars," Beaudry says.
West Virginia is the first state to put up money for a public grid computing program. Colorado and North Carolina also have grid computing initiatives underway.