The vast availability of medical patient data in digital format creates the opportunity to use these data in medical informatics research projects. The objective is to improve future care by providing the medical staff with methods for automated data processing, including textual and visual information analysis and retrieval from medical databases. Many medical institutions do not possess a specific research computing infrastructure or the required budget for such an infrastructure to enable processing of these large amounts of data. Still, many institutions have many desktop PCs that could serve for biomedical research during the time they are little used without the need for expensive investments. The KnowARC project aims at building a middleware for such a simple–to–install Grid network.
This article reviews requirements for computing Grids in large hospital environments. We use the computing infrastructure in the University Hospitals of Geneva as an example, and then present the solutions that the European Union–funded KnowARC project plans to undertake to solve the current problems. Methods currently employed in common Grid middleware distributions are also reviewed and assessed in relation to the goals of KnowARC.
The computing infrastructure at the University Hospitals of Geneva is described as well as the needs and requirements for computing and storage services within this domain. A list of requirements for a Grid middleware to employ in such a challenging environment is developed. Finally, the proposed solutions and ideas of the KnowARC project are described in detail to present the project to a larger community. First proof of concept implementations and test results are described to illustrate how Grid networks are expected to become an important supplier of computational resources, which are required in several domains in biomedical research. A continuous process will be necessary to feed in the requirements of the biomedical domain to developers of Grid middleware to make the outcome meet the specific needs of the biomedical community.