Supercomputers for the Masses? - Page 3

Rooholamini, based in Round Rock, Texas, pointed to some problems with running enterprise applications. For one thing, it is difficult to run database applications—the core of enterprise computing—on a cluster because of issues related to distributed queries. IBM and Oracle Corp. have cluster-capable databases (IBMs DB2 and Oracles Oracle9i RAC), but it is not an easy task to set them up, said Rooholamini. And, generally speaking, it is nearly impossible to take existing applications and recompile them as message-passing applications that take advantage of computing clusters.

It may be easier to use the so-called grid engines to distribute application workloads. Microsoft, for one, is working to combine the grid and clustering technologies. Greg Rankich, product manager, Windows Server Product Management Group, in Redmond, Wash., said Microsoft is focusing at least some of its efforts on distributing business solutions—in part because of customer demand for consolidation, but also to take advantage of spare CPU cycles.

Rooholamini agreed that grid and HPCC technologies are merging. "We look at grid [computing] as an evolution of HPCCs," said Rooholamini. "From a technology perspective, if I design my HPCC and distribute my compute nodes across a larger geography, then I am solving and incorporating things that are necessary for a grid. If I can eliminate latencies in the grid, then I have tackled some of the obstacles."

However, Rooholamini estimates it will be another three years before we see grid-aware applications.

Labs Director John Taschek can be reached at