Grids Make Enterprise Play
Big-name companies back grids, but are they ready for the enterprise?David Levines customers think playing video games on the Web with a million other people is cool. Whats not cool, however, is having your arrow miss its target during a dramatic battle sequence in the latest Braveheart game because the online gaming site youre using ran out of computing power. Levine, CEO of Butterfly.net Inc., a Shepherdstown, W.Va., hosting company for Web-based games, is determined to make sure that doesnt happen. So hes powering his companys network with an enterprise grida network of servers that work together, seamlessly shifting processing tasks among machines as demand ebbs and flows.
The idea of linking computers to form loosely coupled grids has been around practically since systems were first networked. For the most part, it has proved practical for only technical and scientific applications, where workloads are often massive and problems can be easily broken apart. The concept of using grids for enterprise computing, however, is gaining momentum, particularly as companies continue to extend core applications outside the firewall and onto the Web, where capacity needs are hard to predict. Vendors such as IBM and Microsoft Corp. are backing the notion. Startups such as Butterfly.net are buying in. And even a few established enterprises such as aircraft component manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, of East Hartford, Conn., are beginning to wield the idea of enterprise grids with gusto, convinced they are a way to tap into vast computing resources sitting idle.