RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — For months, people at MCNC and the Rural Internet Access Authority have been touting the potential grid computing holds for the economic future of North Carolina.

Next week, a study will be disclosed that shows just what the potential is for linking computers across the state rather than relying on supercomputing.

Dr. Robert Cohen, who is recognized as an expert on the emergence of new Internet technologies, has just completed a study that concluded grid computing could give the state’s economy a $10 billion boost by 2010.

Cohen, the president of Cohen Communications Group, was commissioned to do the study by the Rural Internet Access Authority (also known as e-NC). The report’s details will be spelled out on Wednesday at the conclusion of a two-day grid computing conference sponsored by MCNC and the University of North Carolina. The conference is taking place at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill.

Jane Patterson, head of the RIAA which has spearheaded high-speed Internet access initiatives across the state over the past three years, is a big believer in grid computing. She sees rural areas especially being able to benefit from a network creating high-performance computers that would bring incredible power to these regions without the costs associated with supercomputing.

“When deployed across North Carolina, grid computing can provide seamless, transparent, secure access to IT resources such as hardware, software, scientific instruments and services,” Patterson wrote in a letter inviting people to the conference. “Like the electric power grid, this access can be consistent, dependable and pervasive,” she added.

Dave Rizzo, the chief executive officer at MCNC, is such a believer in the grid that he calls it “the next big thing.” When MCNC ran into trouble getting the financial support needed to maintain supercomputing operations at MCNC, he turned the big, expensive, powerful machines over to universities and focused on the grids. He sees grids providing supercomputing power through clusters of open-sourced based PCs that cost a fraction of an IBM or Cray tower of power. Maintenance costs also are lower.

MCNC now has a MCNC Grid Computing & Network Services division, which is helping put on next week’s event. MCNC also is a founding member of the NC Biogrid initiative.

In addition to Cohen, the conference will hear from Dr. Edward Feser of the Department of City and Regional Planning at UNC. He provided editorial assistance to Cohen in preparing the report.

Also scheduled to take part are: George Bakolia, CIO of the state; Margaret Dardess, NC Board of Science and technology chair; Joan Myers, president of the North Carolina Electronics and Information Technology Association; Robyn Render, CIO of the University of North Carolina System; and Sam Taylor, president of NC Biosciences.

Attendance at the event where Cohen’s report will be discussed is by invitation only. Call (919) 250-4314 or send e-mail to for information.

For an agenda, see:

e-NC also will make the report available online at its web site beginning Oct. 30.