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Update: J&J Teams with United Devices for Global Grid

(01/28/05)—Johnson & Johnson is expanding its R&D computational grid efforts from discrete departmental projects into a company-wide initiative.

This new initiative is a major expansion of the company's grid work. For about two years, European and U.S. departments within J&J Pharmaceutical Research & Development (J&JPRD) have used computational grids based on United Devices Grid MP technology. These research efforts were independent of each other.

The new effort, announced yesterday, is for the deployment of a single global grid that will host many applications, be centrally managed, and be offered to researchers as a service.

"One business driver [for the grid] is to get maximum use of our current computers," says David Neilson, senior director, J&J Pharma R&D IM (Information Management). The system would tap the unused processing power of desktop PCs and some Linux clusters.

Neilson notes that the grid is still in the ramp-up stage and will go from about 450 nodes to 3,000 nodes by the third or fourth quarter of this year.

Applications running on existing departmental grids will be extended to the global grid infrastructure, and new applications will be added. The existing applications cut across a range of research areas and include virtual docking, virtual high-throughput screening, and pharmacokinetic clinical trial data analysis. Additionally, J&JPRD is starting to make other applications, including BLAST and HMMer, available on the grid.

Tapping a Partnership
J&JPRD was already using United Devices' Grid MP platform for its departmental grid efforts. However, there was a realization that to expand the grid would require some new management features.

The new initiative "will make applications available to multiple business units and multiple geographies," says Ben Rouse, United Devices CEO. He notes that for the last year, United Devices has been working in a partnership arrangement with J&JPRD, developing some high-level management systems that would help run this global grid.

For example, the two companies worked on a capacity-management application to give J&JPRD deep insight into the grid’s operations. Using this application, administrators can look at grid utilization and define and measure service-level agreements.

The other area that was addressed had to do with job scheduling. From the scheduling point of view, there was a desire to develop a more-sophisticated tool than what was available. Here, United Devices enhanced its existing offerings to give J&JPRD a unified job scheduler system that runs on top of local job schedulers. The scheduler can take a high-priority job and, for example, switch it over to a high-performance cluster as that cluster becomes available.

The enhanced management tools are also seen as the key to future use of the grid. "We"re asking [ourselves] how might we provide service offerings around this [grid]," says Neilson. "We work with lots of sites and departments, all of which have business leaders we have to satisfy."

Neilson will talk about the grid in a keynote speech at the upcoming United Devices' 2005 Life Sciences Grid Conference, to be held in Zurich, Switzerland, in February.

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