GlobusWorld Struggles with Growing Pains

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2005-02-08

GlobusWorld Struggles with Growing Pains

BOSTON—"Talk about conflict of interest," said a GlobusWorld attendee, arching his eyebrows at laughing colleagues as he bent over his breakfast.

In a nutshell, that comment captures the growing pains of grid. While the conference—which is devoted to open-source grid computing and the open-source Globus Toolkit—is still populated largely by scientific and academic grid gurus, commercial interests are banging at the door.

The growth of interest in grid on the part of vendors who want to sell to commercial enterprises was evinced at GlobusWorld—which kicked off here on Tuesday—by product and support news coming out of the likes of IBM and DataSynapse Inc.

Its also in evidence as the newly launched Globus Consortium grapples with questions of how to spend the resources of its founding companies, Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Intel Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc.—hence the conflict-of-interest remark.

One academic, Ian Foster, agreed that conflict of interest is something the Globus Consortium is going to have to deal with as it grows. "The membership fees are money that can be applied to work on various areas," said Foster, associate director of the mathematics and computer science division at Argonne National Laboratory and the Arthur Holly Compton professor of computer science at the University of Chicago.

Argonne is the birthplace of the Globus Alliance—a group devoted to developing the technologies needed to build computational grids, which are environments that allow geographically spread-out organizations to share information resources, software applications and hardware such as servers.

"To one company, maybe internationalization is important, but to another, maybe theyre concerned with implementation of identity management," Foster said. "For the consortium to be successful, it has to accommodate those differing views."

How do you do that? Quite simply, you talk to people, Foster said. "Theres a general feeling that whats good for Globus is good for them. They have the larger goal of promoting standards."

Open-source software is a way to get standards into the hands of users faster and more easily than otherwise, Foster said. Because grid is growing fast, nows the time to chime in on what the standards should look like, he said—when the technologies are still, to a greater or lesser degree, just taking their baby steps.

But such philosophical debates about potential conflicts of interest in one of the many current grid consortia were overshadowed by conference-goers swapping of technology tales.

The latest version of Globus Toolkit, 4.0, is due out in April, and it promises much closer alignment with Web services standards, as grid finds itself at the heart of the shift toward SOAs (service-oriented architectures) and the emerging utility computing market.

As such, developers are itching to get at how-to panels such as one to be given Friday by the Argonne National Laboratorys Lisa Childers, product manager for GT4.

Lisa Vaas says that with the launch of Univa and the Globus Consortium, grid is going the Linux route. Read more here.

Childers said shes planning on giving a presentation on how to build a GT4 service—an update of panels shes given before with earlier GT versions. Shell put attendees to work developing a service application that allows you to write a virtual note on fish—a stickies note service, as it were.

This allows developers to focus on the patterns and interactions of services in general, while getting used to some of the jargon deployed in GT4.

"The concepts are the same," Childers said. "The API calls are different, but the [underlying] programming is the same."

Next Page: Product news from DataSynapse and IBM.

Product News

As far as product and other news from the vendors goes, DataSynapse announced on Tuesday the release of GridServer 4.0 Virtual Enterprise Edition, the newest version of its flagship application infrastructure software.

The company said key new features include distributed data-caching capability, support for 10 core application models, and enhanced functionality for virtualizing application and data components as well as stateful Web services.

Tony Bishop, chief technology architect at DataSynapse, said the companys grid-caching capability introduces an abstraction layer.

In the database, for example, where theres a lot of contention for read- and write-type processing, DataSynapses technology alleviates the read-bound processing challenges by automatically opening more connections into data sources.

DataSynapse also can pull information from data sources to alleviate write-bound issues, Bishop said.

"Weve become the front end that … [leverages] infrastructure to give it temporary expansion of more connections and pulls information before its needed, so we can stop pounding on the database," he said.

During the opening keynote of GlobusWorld, much was made of service-oriented architecture and Web services. Read more here.

Essentially, DataSynapse virtualizes business logic and access to data in an open-standards-based framework. Bishop gave the example of ETL (extraction, transform, load) processes. Data gets pulled from multiple systems and split into transactional processes, and then a connection opens up to load it into a data warehouse.

That transform process is usually sprayed over some clustered system and clustered sessions. The faster you can transform and load that information, the better off youll be, but bottlenecks often occur in transforming and loading the data.

With Grid Server, users can expand the number of transformation and load sessions on a temporary basis, Bishop said, limiting bottlenecks that would occur in typical processes. He said performance gains are ranking in the range of a 50-fold increase.

For its part, IBM had two announcements: a grid scholars challenge, and Accelerated Design Service, an offering from IBM Global Services designed to quickly get enterprises up on grid.

Ken King, vice president of grid computing at IBM, said 3,000 of IBMs Global Support specialists are set to offer a variety of services: Grid Innovation Workshops, which are two- and three-day workshops introducing grid computing; the Grid Value at Work tool, which calculates the value output of grid computing based on industry templates; Grid Computing Application Enablement, a service geared to grid-enable applications; and Grid Solution Deployment Services.

IBMs Grid Scholars Challenge is a contest for American and Canadian students and faculty advisers that is designed to expand understanding of grid computing. IBM is looking for three types of project submissions: proposals for innovative grid open standards or architectures; evaluation of an existing grid standard or implementation; or a proposal for proof of concept, prototype implementation or contribution to an open-source grid implementation.

IBM is accepting registrations online here until April 8.

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