updated 10/29/2004 12:34:09 AM ET 2004-10-29T04:34:09

Researchers and businesses in West Virginia will be able to access the first state-sponsored public Internet computing grid when the Global Grid Exchange is launched next month.

The project, which will function as a supercomputer at a fraction of the cost, is a joint effort of the state, the West Virginia High Technology Consortium, Verizon and Hewlett Packard.

"As with any other state-funded infrastructure, whether it's a roadway or a power station, this grid in the hands of West Virginia companies and researchers will give them the capacity for innovation and greater potential for new products in the state of West Virginia as well as an influx of research dollars into the state," Amy Beaudry, a spokeswoman for the high tech consortium, said Wednesday.

The consortium received a $14.7 million grant from the West Virginia Economic Development Authority to develop the grid, which will link computers in academic institutions, government offices and home personal computers that have excess capacity to advance work in such fields as biometrics and cancer research.

Officials believe the grid will spark economic development initiatives within the state. It will be open to anyone beginning Nov. 19 through a portal for a yet to be determined fee. The initial phase cost $2.8 million.

Although universities and organizations like NASA have had computer clusters for years, researchers and businesses not connected with those institutions have had to go through an extensive process to gain access. The global grid will change that, Beaudry said.

"A West Virginia engineer or researcher will be able from their desk top to get access to math computing power on demand," Beaudry said. "The potential is staggering."

Verizon provided the network's infrastructure with a DS3 connection and underwrote the cost of the CISCO networking equipment, including routers and switches. Hewlett Packard covered the cost of the most of the hardware. The exchange will use Frontier, a grid computing solution from strategic partner Parabon Computation.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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