Taiwan’s Cyberinfrastructure for Knowledge Innovation
Whey-Fone Tsai, Fang Pang Lin, Weicheng Huang, Steven Shiau, Ming Hsiao Lee, Alex Wu, John Clegg, National Center for High-Performance Computing, Taiwan
CTWatch Quarterly
February 2006


The Knowledge Innovation National Grid (KING) project (Figure 1) began as an initiative under the "Challenge 2008" program, a comprehensive six-year National Development Plan formulated by the Taiwan government in 2002. The objective of the KING project (2003-2006) is to deploy a Grid infrastructure and conduct innovative pilot applications. KING's twin project, the TaiWan Advanced Research and Education Network (TWAREN, 2003-2007) (Figure 2), is a world-class, island-wide, next-generation research and education network. The KING and TWAREN initiatives form the kernel of Taiwan's Cyberinfrastructure and provide an advanced and collaborative environment to our national research, government, and industrial communities. In the first stage of the project (2003-2006), we will deploy the necessary Grid resources and develop the required support technologies. We will then launch our Grid services beginning 2007.

Figure 1

Figure 1. The Application-Driven Project, KING.

Figure 2

Figure 2. The TWAREN Network.

Cyberinfrastructure for Science and Engineering

The NCHC is the only national-level center in Taiwan dedicated to high-performance computing and networking research and services. The NCHC is also responsible for Taiwan's Cyberinfrastructure plan. Taiwan's Cyberinfrastructure plan was developed considering how to conduct successful applications and innovations (Figure 3). The term Cyber-resource refers to core HPC resources such as high-performance computing, high-end networking, and data storage. Cyber-technology includes technologies such as real-time communication, Sensor Network, and advanced visualization. The NCHC integrates Cyber-resources and Cyber-technologies to create Cyber-environments that ensure scientists and engineers can easily access these resources and technologies. Moreover, the Cyber-environment integrates distributed computing and data storage resources into computing Grid and data Grid to enable information integration and resource sharing. The Cyber-resource, together with Cyber-technology, attempts to build a comprehensive environment to meet users' demands for intensive and pervasive computing. International standards of quality management must be met if the Cyber-environment is to guarantee a high quality service. The Grid operation center is the key component of the NCHC's Cyber-operation. The Grid operation center encompasses a Grid monitoring system, emergency response system, Grid service system, and Grid operation system. The success of the Cyberinfrastructure can be measured by observing the users' performance. The four categories of innovation supported by Cyber-innovation are 1) large-scale simulation, 2) human-life related Grids applications, 3) community alliances and, 4) international collaborations. The Cyberinfrastructure plan may be modified in accordance with users' needs and technology advancement.

Figure 3

Figure 3. The Cyberinfrastructure Map.


In order to serve industrial R&D as well as academia, three of TWAREN's four core nodes are located within Taiwan's Science Parks. Eleven regional centers (GigaPoPs), linked to the backbone as 10 Gbps Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs), serve to bring Taiwan's major institutions of higher education and research onto the network. TWAREN provides many services not available from commodity networks such as IPv6, multicast, MPLS/VPN, VOIP, e-learning, and multimedia.

The NCHC's Cyber-resources are geographically distributed across Taiwan at three different resource centers. The Hsinchu Business Unit, located in northern Taiwan, houses the NCHC's supercomputers, software library, and scientific databases. The soon-to-be-completed Taichung Business Unit, located in central Taiwan, will be the NCHC's Knowledge Management Center. It will be a Peta-scale data storage service center and serve as NCHC's Grid Operation Center as well. The Tainan Business Unit, located in southern Taiwan, serves as the NCHC's Network Operation Center (NOC). These three resource centers are linked to each other via the TWAREN network, thus allowing for the integration of all of the NCHC's computing and data Grid resources.

The Cyber-environment's major task is to build a Cyberinfrastructure on a scale that has never before been seen in Taiwan. The basic infrastructure includes a high-end computing facility and a 100 TB level storage system running on top of 10-Gbps level of Wide Area Network (WAN). Although these developments are not quite as impressive when compared to those of worldwide Grid activities, they are indeed the largest resources in Taiwan.

The build-up of the basic infrastructure is only the first step. We must also focus on how to provide stable, secure, and scalable services to our scientific computing community. Over the past two years, we have devoted the majority of our efforts to the construction of a generic computing Grid environment. This environment was built to help hide the complexity of Grid computing from the end users and to provide easy access to the backend computing facilities and storage. The fundamental concept of building such a "generic" computing Grid is to provide a base line for the development of an application-specific Grid. Application developers can easily modify this generic solution to develop their own customized computing Grid if common features are already built into it.

The generic computing Grid seems to have adopted the worldwide standard of Grid middleware, however, the bridge between the middleware and the user is not standardized. The Grid must provide special features that traditional scientific computing does not. The user should be able to simply "fire and forget." In other words, the user should be able to submit a job and then let the system take care of execution and notification of the results.

The ultimate goal of Grid computing is to provide seamless and consistent "plug and play"-style computing to its users. In order to realize this, we must enhance Grid's middleware and learn to better manage its infrastructure. Also, middleware must be adopted and integrated while new features are added. This will further reduce the barrier between the Grid and its users. Various tasks such as automation, resource brokerage, meta-scheduling, and advanced reservations can be carried out over the Grid system while, at the same time, hiding the Grid's complexity.

The large-scale problems of the future will be much greater than those of today. In the future, many modern technologies and applications will become routine and will be integrated into a much larger system that is able to solve much more complicated problems. The modern supercomputer will become no more than a simple piece of hardware that will not require further development. On the other hand, the Cyber-environment will demand intensive development in order for it to solve the large-scale problems of tomorrow. The primary tasks demanding our attention in the future will be to provide the user with a satisfying Grid experience, to further hide the complexity of the Grid computing environment and its backend facilities and, finally, to achieve the goal that Grid computing set out to achieve originally. It will not be enough to simply implement solutions that meet the research demand. We must truly transform the way research is done and inspire new means of R&D. The Cyber-environment will make all of this a reality.


Technologies such as real-time communication, remote data gathering sensors, and advanced visualization have been developed to support the Cyber-environment. Access Grid (AG) technology is used for real-time group-to-group communication and interactions across the Grid. The NCHC has been actively developing AG-enhancing applications since 2003. These developments integrate modern video codecs such as MPEG4 and H.264 into the video (vic) element of AG. This has resulted in a richer and high quality video conference. The NCHC's AG team is committed to developing additional functionality that can contribute to future versions of ANL AG.

The NCHC has designed a sensor network embedded system and collaborated with various hardware suppliers to deploy the necessary resources to collect field data for applications such as Ecology and Flood Mitigation. The system is remotely controlled via IPv6 and IPv4. All the video, audio and measurement data obtained from data loggers are collected real-time and archived so that it can be analyzed by experts anytime, anywhere.

The NCHC's Advanced Visualization team has developed distributed rendering packages such as Image-based Visualization Interface (IvI), IvIsee, IvI4MIE, and IvItune. The NCHC also developed a Multi-Method Streaming Access Server for mono and stereo display and a 4x3 tiled display wall (TDW) that utilizes 24 projectors. The NCHC's TDW is powered by a 13-node cluster. Real-time video/audio streaming, TV programs, and high-definition movies can be shown in the TDW environment. This same technology has been used to construct a LCD-based TDW system.


The NCHC has worked diligently to bring the Cyber-environment into the classroom. As an example, the NCHC used the Access Grid to conduct high-performance computing distant learning courses. The network-synchronized classrooms at NCHC's three business units have been equipped with AG capabilities that include recording, broadcasting, and auto recovery. In addition to the Cyber-education project at the NCHC, there are about 30 primary schools, high schools, and colleges (approximate 100 sites) using the distant learning system to conduct classes. The system has also been selected as the official system for the national multidisciplinary-technology teaching platform. This platform includes instruction on nano technology, optical electronics, and bio-medical technology. About 60 universities will join this project by year's end. The NCHC also provides real-time simulation and collaborative visualization for the multidisciplinary-technology teaching platform.


The NCHC-developed Grid infrastructure will become fully operational in 2007. It will be deployed and managed from the NCHC's Grid Operation Center located in central Taiwan. The Grid Operation Center will be responsible for monitoring the operation of the Grid Cyberinfrastructure as a whole. These responsibilities include devising and managing servers, networks, and procedures that optimize the Grid's operation and working with Local Support Societies to provide them the best services. 

The Grid Operation System is constructed with a layered architecture that includes the facility layer, the function module layer, the solution module layer, the application module layer, and the interface and media layer. It provides its users with a dynamic and total service solution. It also manages the availability, scalability, quality, and security of the service.

An efficient Grid monitoring system has been developed to help maintain the stable availability and quality of service. It utilizes web and mobile measurements, network, systems, and Grid resources monitoring to ensure that the users' services are always available and running at peak performance.

The Emergency Response System is a software platform that utilizes GIS, video conference systems, and sensor net systems to centralize and distribute necessary data and information for decision-making in emergency situations. The Emergency Response System is housed in specially prepared rooms that are equipped with display walls and video conference facilities. These amenities enable the user to monitor any site in Taiwan in visually-rich 3D. These facilities also help decision makers make the right decision when emergency situations such as fires, flooding, typhoons, and other emergency situations take place.

The Grid Service System is designed based on the users' viewpoint. It meets those expectations internally and externally and automatically creates management tools to verify that those expectations are being met. This Services Module is a dynamic application protocol framework. Local Grid societies are able to choose and combine the kinds of services they need and use them in an integrated Grid environment.


The Cyberinfrastructure combines KING and TWAREN to provide for large-scale resource sharing. This, in turn, enables the synthesis of hypothesis and data driven applications. Such a synthesis will result in a new method of education, research, and collaboration and will ultimately lead to innovation in a broader sense or, in other words, Cyber-innovation.

Large-Scale Simulations

The Grid was initially developed to enable large-scale simulations that couldn't be computed using a single supercomputer. The Cyberinfrastructure of KING and TWAREN will focus on large-scale simulation research in the fields of Hydrometeorology, Energy, and Bio-Medical research. National and international experts from academia also join the NCHC research team in the development of this field.

Grid Applications

The resource-sharing applications devised for the Cyber-innovation encompasses education-based projects such as E-learning Grid and Multi-disciplinary e-Teaching Platform. It also includes specific Life Science Grid-based projects such as Biology Grid, SARS Grid, Asthma Grid, and Eco Grid. It also includes engineering research in Hazard Mitigation projects such as Flood Mitigation Grid and Earthquake Engineering Grid. These applications are directly related to information collection, fusion, processing, and sharing. Table 1 illustrates the extent that Grid-based applications depend on Grid resources and supporting technologies. The utilization of a network is intrinsic to all applications. The incorporation of sensor networks is particularly prominent in many applications. It allows for the automation of workflow from direct observation and/or raw data collection to simulation.

The NCHC's Grid-based achievements include SARS Grid, Asthma and Lung Cancer Grids, E-learning, Global Lakes Environmental Observational Networks (GLEON), Coral Reefs Environmental Observational Networks (CREON), and the Bio Grid-based 3D confocal images of the Drosophila fruit fly brain.

Grid Resources Supporting Technologies
Application Network Computing Data Storage Access Grid Sensor Network Visualization VR
E-Learn Grid S W S S W M
Multidisciplinary e-Teaching Platform S S S S S S
Ecology Grid: GLEON/ S M S W S W
Flood Mitigation Grid S S S S S S
Asthma Grid S W S W S W
Earthquake Engineering Grid S S S M S M
Biology Grid S M S W W S
Table 1. The Weighting of Grid Resources and Supporting Technologies Used In Various Grid Applications

Community Alliances

Resource sharing also implies the physical network that connects the computing resources as well as the "people" network needed to develop specific application domains. Similar large-scale international Grid projects such as the USA's TeraGrid project and the UK's e-Science program also incorporate this "people" network. Each of KING's applications has a specific community alliance attached to it. As an example, Flood Mitigation Grid is supported by Taiwan's Water Resource Agency (WRA). Flood Mitigation Grid is also utilized by Taiwan's water management offices, professors, researchers, and engineers. In another example, Chang Gung University and its medical centers support the NCHC's Medical Grid project in their effort to better understand medical information.

International Collaborations

The TWAREN network is based on the Internet Protocol (IP). The IP and higher layer Grid middleware are based on open standards. This allows for the transparent sharing of resources at a local, regional, and global level. In recent years, international collaboration has become commonplace, however, newly developed models of international collaboration must also evolve to meet new needs. International organizations such as the Pacific Rim Applications and Grid Middleware Assembly (PRAGMA), Asia Pacific Grid (ApGrid), and the Global Grid Forum (GGF) have been established to meet these needs. The NCHC is an active member in all of these organizations and follows their development very closely. All resources and application developments are shared extensively within these organizations. The NCHC led the combat against SARS in 2003. The NCHC also hosted the 5th PRAGMA later that same year. The NCHC is also active in the development of a new ecological research organization established to monitor global lakes and coral reefs via sensor networks.


Over the last three years, the NCHC has deployed a robust and comprehensive Cyberinfrastructure plan for Taiwan. The Cyberinfrastructure's distributed and shared resources, including high-end networking, computing, and data storage, are fully operational. The Cyberinfrastructure's supporting technologies are also completely developed and have been utilized to create many useful and life-enhancing applications. Through its pilot applications, the NCHC has shown great innovation and leadership in human life-related Grids. Beginning 2007, the NCHC will provide complete Grid operation service from its central Taiwan Business Unit. Also beginning 2007, the NCHC will evolve its Cyberinfrastructure to service local business and industry in addition to academia.

Relevant Links
KING - http://webgis.nchc.org.tw/kingnew/site.html
NCHC web site - http://www.nchc.org.tw/en/
NCHC Access Grid - http://twag.nchc.org.tw
NCHC Sensor Network - http://sensor.nchc.org.tw
NCHC TDW - http://tdw.nchc.org.tw
TWAREN - http://www.twaren.net/

URL to article: http://www.ctwatch.org/quarterly/articles/2006/02/taiwans-cyberinfrastructure-for-knowledge-innovation/