IBM signed an agreement with Oxford University on Wednesday to build parts of a national grid that will link computing systems throughout the UK and elsewhere over a shared network.

Universities have led the development of the grid computing model, which creates a massive network of computers and makes them appear as one, unified system. By linking disparate servers, storage and software, different research centres, for example, can share information with each other over the same network.

An open source development community called Globusis working on many of the underlying technologies behind grid computing. The group looks to develop protocols for regulating resource management, database sharing and collaborative work in a grid model.

In much the same way as the internet connects users around the world over a common set of protocols, grid computing creates a common computing platform but allows restrictions as to who can access the grid, who can add information and who can see certain types of information, said Irving Wladawsky-Berger, vice president of technology and strategy at IBM.

In the National Grid project, IBM will build a data storage facility located at Oxford, which will connect to nine other grid centres located around the UK. The main grid centre is located in Edinburgh, with other regional centres at universities in Newcastle, Belfast, Manchester, Cardiff, Cambridge and Southampton and at Imperial College, London.

IBM will store data for a high-energy physics research program being conducted between the site in Oxford and the US Particle Physics Laboratory in Chicago.