by Domenico Laforenza
Nowdays the popularity of Internet and the availability of powerful computers and fast networks make possible to couple a wide variety of computational resources like supercomputers, storage systems, data sources and special devices, and using all of them as a single powerful parallel machine. This new computational paradigm has been defined "Grid Computing". This research topic has raised enoumous interest both in US  and Europe, as witnessed by the recent EU actions in the Sixth Framework Programme .
Grid Computing represents a natural evolution of the research carried out by the ISTI-CNR High Performance Computing Laboratory in strict cooperation with Prof. Marco Vanneschi's group at the Computer Department of University of Pisa. Since more than a decade, the two research groups are actively cooperating in joint research and development projects like:
1. PQE2000 (1999-2001)
2. ASI-PQE (2001-2002)
3. Progetti Strategici Legge 449/97 (1999 e 2000)
4. Fondo per gli Investimenti della Ricerca di Base (FIRB) (2002-2005)
In August 2001, the strategic lines for the participation of CNR Institutes to a National Project (FIRB), lauched by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR), were defined by a CNR working group. In this context, a project proposal on Grid Computing, coordinated by Prof. Vanneschi, was prepared and sent to MIUR by the end of October 2001. The proposal was approved on September 2002 and funded with a grant of 8.1 MEuro.
This proposal, having a strong interdisciplinary character, is aimed at defining, implementing and applying innovative solutions for network computing enabling platforms, oriented towards scalable VOs and based on the "Grid Computing" paradigm. The research topics in the project (see Figure 1) span from high performance photonic networks, innovative middleware services, high performance programming environments and so forth.
The proposal includes the development of some demonstrators selected within application fields that are of maximum interest, not only for their scientific value, but also as testbeds for high performance Grid platforms:
- Earth Observation
- Biology and Genomics
- Computational chemistry
Six High Qualitification Centres will participate to the project:
1. Information Science and Technologies Institute (ISTI-CNR) - Pisa ;
2. Institute for High Performance Computing and Networking (ICAR-CNR) - Cosenza and Naples;
3. Institute for Molecular Sciences and Technologies (ISTM-CNR) - Perugia;
4. Italian Institute for Nuclear Physics;
5. Italian Space Agency, Center for Space Geodesy - Matera;
6. Photonic Networks Laboratory, CNIT Consortium, Pisa.
Every one of these Centres corresponds to a Research Unit of the project and coordinates the participation of researchers from other institutes and university departments which host the most qualified national research groups, as well as of a selected number of international research groups.
 Revolutionizing Science and Engineering Through Cyberinfrastructure, US National Science Foundation, January 2003
 IST workshop on 'Grids for Complex Problem Solving' , Brussels, 29-30 January 2003