Defence and aerospace systems company BAE Systems has embarked on a large-scale initiative to grid-enable its IT development environment to speed up production lifecycles and increase levels of collaboration.
Supported by the government's e-Science programme, BAE aims to develop practical, commercial grid computing strategies for the more efficient management of IT resources.
The company is working with various academic and technology partners to harness the power of distributed or virtualised heterogeneous IT resources.
"Our work is part of BAE's ongoing strategic research," said Alan Gould, group leader of integration technology at BAE's Advanced Technology Centre (ATC). "It has the aim of understanding what grid technology is able to do and how it will affect us."
The ATC is working with academia and vendors to safely extend BAE's ability to design, visualise and simulate the elaborate electronic systems used in aerospace and defence sectors.
The project brings together the ATC with the Institute of High Performance Computing (HPC) in Singapore, Cardiff University and the University of Wales, Swansea. Hewlett Packard and grid software developer Platform are also involved.
The Grid-Enabled Computational Electromagnetics (GECM) project uses HP security expertise, HPC capacity and the Welsh universities' advanced visualisation and modelling resources to solve grid access and security problems.
"Colloborative visulation is one of the more novel aspects of the project," said Alex Hardisty, manager of the e-Science Centre at Cardiff University.
"We're trying to cut down the lengthy iterative loop in development by creating automated process workflows. Modifications can be done much quicker, although not in real time."
Chris Dalton, HP labs senior research scientist, added that the project was about "making the grid a reliable area for people who are accessing it from anywhere to collaborate".
A test grid will allow for research into advanced levels of simulation and security across computing resources on multiple sites that power a virtual or extended grid enterprise.
The project uses Platform's technology in combination with Globus' open source tool kit to grid-enable applications used at the development stage.
Kieran Lees, managing director of Platform Computing (Northern Europe), said BAE is leading the way in commercial research into grid computing because "it has a realistic, pragmatic view of what it can achieve".
BAE will use its grid-enabled applications to create and test its most sophisticated designs. This will deliver competitive benefit through reduced capital expenditure on IT, and the ability to bring superior products to market faster.
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