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Computational Science, Engineering & Technology Series
ISSN 1759-3158
Edited by: B.H.V. Topping
Chapter 4

Grid Technology in Civil Engineering

M. Dolenc, V. Stankovski and Z. Turk

Faculty of Civil and Geodetic Engineering, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Full Bibliographic Reference for this chapter
M. Dolenc, V. Stankovski, Z. Turk, "Grid Technology in Civil Engineering", in B.H.V. Topping, (Editor), "Innovation in Civil and Structural Engineering Computing", Saxe-Coburg Publications, Stirlingshire, UK, Chapter 4, pp 75-96, 2005. doi:10.4203/csets.13.4
Keywords: grid computing, grid technology, grid middleware, distributed computing, high performance computing, civil engineering, construction.

Over the past decade there has been a huge shift in the way we perceive and utilise computing resources. Localised computing resources are increasingly being replaced by wide-area distributed applications, which has led to the development of many different types of middleware, libraries and tools that allow geographically distributed resources to be unified into a single application. This approach to distributed computing has come under many different names, such as meta-computing, global computing, internet computing and more recently, grid computing [1].

The name grid takes its name from an analogy with the electrical power grid. The grid dream is to allow users to tap into resources off the internet as easily as electrical power can be drawn from the wall socket [2].

Grid technology or simply grid is defined as a system that "coordinates distributed resources using standard, open, general-purpose protocols and interfaces to deliver non-trivial quality of service" (also becoming known as quality of experience) [3]. A three-point check list, published by Foster [4], has been proposed that defines specific criteria, which an application must support to be specified as a grid. Grids often combines elements such as distributed computing, high-performance computing, and disposable computing, depending on the application of the technology and the scale of the operation. By using grid technology it is possible to create a virtual (super) computer out of existing servers, workstations, and even PCs. The idea is to build an environment in which IT resources such as processing power, memory, storage, and network bandwidth are treated as pure commodities.

As noted by Topping [6] grid applications and projects in the domain of civil engineering appear relatively unrepresented. A characteristic of the few civil engineering grid related projects ([7,8]) is that they primarily deal with collaboration, data acquisition and project management issues rather than with the traditional high performance computing approach that characterised early grid developments.

The present paper reviews the state-of-the-art of the grid technology (standards, development tools, grid middleware, ...) as well as a future grid technology that is being developed within the European 6th Framework IST projects. It explores the practical advantages of the grid technology and discuses what is needed in order to migrate successfully to this new computing paradigm. Applications of grid computing in scientific and engineering arenas presented in the paper include, but are not limited to []: distributed computational science, high-capacity/throughput computing, content sharing, remote software access, data intensive computing, on-demand/real-time computing and collaborative computing.

Some of the questions that will be addressed by the paper are:

  • How is grid technology different from other similar approaches (CORBA, DCOM, web service) from the past?
  • What are the main challenges in adopting grid technology in the AEC sector?
  • What are the benefits of grid technology that could be useful for the civil engineering sector?

I. Foster, C. Kesselman & S. Tuecke "The Anatomy of the Grid: Enabling Scalable Virtual Organisations", International Journal of High Performance Computing Applications, 15 (3). 200-222. 2001. doi:10.1177/109434200101500302
D. Minoli, "A Networking Approach to Grid Computing", John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New jersey, 2005.
I. Foster & C. Kesselman, "Concepts and Architecture", The Grid: Blueprint for a New Computing Infrastructure, ed. I. Foster & C. Kesselman, p. 37-63, Elsevier Inc., 2004.
I. Foster, "What is the Grid? A Three Point Checklist.", Grid Today, July 20, 2002.
B. Jacob, "Grid computing: What are the key components?", URL
B.H.V. Topping "Twenty Years of Civil and Structural Engineering Computing", Progress in Civil and Structural Engineering Computing, Saxe-Coburg Publications, Stirling, Scotland, 1-36, 2003.
Enabling the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEESit), URL
Interoperability of Virtual Organisations on Complex Semantic Grid (InteliGrid), URL

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