Grid Computing Takes the Linux Route

Updated: Opinion: Why do we need yet another grid outfit? Because the open-source model promoted by the newly formed Globus Consortium is a smart one to follow.

Mondays launch of the Globus Consortium by HP, Intel, IBM and Sun Microsystems represented the second body devoted to the commercialization of grid to come into being in the past year, after the Enterprise Grid Alliance launched in April.

Why do we need yet another grid outfit? Besides the EGA, we already have the Globus Alliance, as well as a smattering of bodies that work on grid standards, including the Global Grid Forum, OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) and the World Wide Web Consortium.

The Globus Consortium, however, is specifically devoted to advancing open-source implementation of grid standards as the world of grid opens up to commercial use. The group is focused on advancing the Globus Toolkit, an open standards building block for enterprise-level grid implementations that came out of the Globus Alliance, an open-source-focused organization at Argonne National Labs.

Ian Foster, a consortium board member who led the original team that developed the tool kit, compares Globus Consortium to the Open Source Development Labs in which Linus Torvalds works, where the goal is to take Linux and make it ready for enterprise use.

Grid computing, of course, has been around for years. But with the launch of products such as Oracles Database 10g, interest in using it in nonacademic settings has escalated. After all, as Peter ffoulkes, Suns director of marketing for high-performance and technical computing, said to me recently, business computing has woken up.

Nowadays, enterprises are looking at the money theyve poured into computing resources and are saying, "Hey, wait a minute, were getting 10 percent utilization out of our computing systems, and our analysts are getting up to 90 percent utilization," ffoulkes said. Who wouldnt want a piece of that? Grid, essentially an evolution of distributed computing, promises pooled resources that, ideally, will bring computing power into the realm of utility resources, much like electricity, and deliver those much-desired utilization rates.

But plugging grid into the enterprise is going to be a different animal than using it for modeling weather patterns or mapping the human genome. A number of things happen when grid moves to an enterprise setting. For example, code must be embedded into enterprise systems, where there are a multitude of interfaces to deal with. Security, identity management and enterprise work roles will all undoubtedly have different characteristics that will stress code in different ways, Foster remarked in a recent conversation.

Next Page: End users push for open grids.