GlobusWorld Struggles with Growing Pains

Reporter's Notebook: While the conference devoted to open-source grid computing is still populated largely by scientific and academic grid gurus, commercial interests are banging at the door.

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.

/zimages/2/28571.gifLisa 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.