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KNOXVILLE — Microsoft Corp. is donating $675,000 to a University of Tennessee project to create the nation’s first computational computer grid.

The Microsoft gift includes money, hardware and software given over a three-year period, said Dr. Jack Dongarra, a UT computer scientist who heads the development of the Scalable Intracampus Research Grid.

Dr. Jack Dongarra

The computational grid is a network of computers, storage devices and fast switches that will let researchers do large computing tasks without having access to a supercomputer. Dongarra and his colleagues in the department of computer science have a five-year, $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop the grid.

“We explained our concept to Microsoft and they were quite interested,” Dongarra said. “They want to be sure their software becomes part of our grid in whatever way makes sense.

“This donation not only helps us take advantage of key Microsoft technologies but also makes the transfer of our research results into the Windows environment easier.”

The campus grid is designed to mirror the development of the national technology grid now being developed by the U.S. research community, Dongarra said. The campuswide grid will provide a manageable system allowing researchers to explore and resolve challenges that may arise as the national grid is developed.

Dr. Jim Gray, a senior research at Microsoft, said the grid UT is developing is a fundamental transformation in the way people work with computers.

The donation is one of the first the software giant has made in the area of computational grid development.