GridWorld Encourages Enterprise Adoption

Reporter's Notebook: "Join the club," grid advocates say, as they offer newcomers to the technology hardware, software and advice.

BOSTON—"The dogs will bark, but the caravan rolls on," CIO Magazine Group Publisher Gary Beach said in his Tuesday keynote address at the inaugural GridWorld conference here.

Well, yes, the dogs are indeed barking at grid computing, but actually, most dogs I know serve as decent sentries when their humans are about to go get eaten alive by cannibals. Or, you know, software vendors or service providers—whatever.

In this, the inaugural show of what seems to be a mini-rash of oh-yes-indeedy-grids-sure-are-ready-for-the-enterprise conferences, Beach was addressing the business case for why leading IT organizations are adopting grid.

The barking dogs, in this case, are all those people who keep saying "Yikes, too scary!" to grid.

And there are, still, many enterprises saying yikes to grid. CIO Magazine did a survey in September asking whether enterprises intended to implement grid in the next 12 months. A somewhat impressive one in five said yes, they would.

Now, that compares pretty favorably to the 1 percent who said yes to grid one year ago, according to CIO Magazines surveys.

But judging by the now-familiar litany of technology roadblocks iterated by show-goers and panelists, it sounds like there are still plenty of reasons to bark.

The challenges: First, grid costs money. Second, its difficult to install. Third, security is a big question mark when youre taking sensitive data and spreading it over PCs like so much privacy-threatening margarine.

Fourth, standards work has improved to a degree, but some standards are still missing, and others have groups working at cross-purposes. Fifth, code modification headaches. Sixth, having enough IT staff in these lean, mean times. Seventh, its difficult to install. Eighth, its really hard to install. And did I mention its hard to install?

Vendors are, of course, scrambling over themselves to ease this baggage off your weary back.

IBM, for one, in August announced at LinuxWorld what its calling the Grid and Grow package. Its a grid starter kit of sorts that bundles its eServer BladeCenter blade server hardware with software and services.

The starting point is a $49,000 package that includes one BladeCenter chassis and seven blade servers, along with grid scheduler software for managing jobs and services to help plan, install and test the bundle.

Depending on the type of workload and the industry, IBM will offer Altair Engineering Inc.s PBS Professional, DataSynapse Inc.s GridServer, Platform Computing Inc.s Platform LSF or IBMs LoadLeveler software as its scheduling software.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead more here about DataSynapses middle-tier grid offerings.

The blades themselves will run Linux operating systems from either Red Hat Inc. or Novell Inc.s SuSE. They are also available with Microsoft Corp.s Windows or IBMs own AIX 5L.

IBM had other news coming out of the conference, including an agreement to partner with Univa Corp. to deliver commercially supported grid software from Globus. Univas going to deliver a commercially supported, enterprise-ready release of the open-standard software built around the Globus Toolkit for use across IBM eServer platforms running both AIX and Linux.

Big Blue is also working to fertilize the ecosystem. IBM announced with Absoft Corp. on Tuesday a new software developers kit designed specifically to work with Grid and Grow hardware and services.

Also, SAS Institute Inc., the first major vendor to join the Grid and Grow program, on Tuesday announced new grid computing capabilities in its SAS 9 BI (Business Intelligence) software.

The new automated grid management capabilities in the data mining and data integration applications will help users to more easily allocate compute-intensive work, helping to reduce data processing time and helping to get more data integrated and analyzed in less time.

Ken King, IBMs vice president of grid computing, said Grid and Grow is essentially IBMs recognition that a good 50 percent of the market really hasnt the foggiest idea what grid is or how to use it.

"Those who do are scared to spend money," he said.

So the $49,000 price point not only targets departments in large industry accounts; it also targets the midmarket.

/zimages/4/28571.gifSun invites support for Sun Grid. Click here to read more.

Thats a fine approach, but speaking from a casual sampling of walking the (very small) exhibit hall and talking to some show-goers, Id say that when were talking about grid, the overwhelming majority of users are still those belonging to the HPC (high-performance computing) camps of scientific and academic research.

In that camp, one typical type of user is exemplified by an application architect from the University of Pittsburgh who was mulling over the Grid and Grow sales spiel in the exhibit hall. He said hes working on creating a grid for various academic purposes, including, of course, supporting research for typical grid stuff: genomics, protein research, etc.

Hes amassing information, but the architect really plans to do things on his own, using both post-docs and academic computing wizards as human resource material.

Sorry, vendors. With that type of user—and as always, there still seems to be more of them than other types in the world of grid users—kiss the potential to sell services goodbye.

Also, hes looking at using open-source code, a la Globus Toolkit, since hes got supercomputing experts on hand and no lack of skills to tackle the care and feeding of open-source software.

But enterprises can certainly adopt grid without such a lineup of skills. On one panel that covered "The First Steps Toward Grid Adoption," much assurance was given that you dont have to have experts or a ton of expertise on hand before embarking on a grid project, because believe you me, you will learn as you go.

Next Page: Do-it-yourself grid computing.