Oracle Makes Waves With Grid Consortium Plans

Oracle's move to start its own commercial grid consortium has taken established grid groups completely by surprise

Oracle Corp.s move to start its own commercial grid consortium has taken established grid groups completely by surprise.

The 4-year-old Global Grid Forum on Friday posted a letter from its chair, Charlie Catlett, in which Catlett said nobody at Oracle has talked with GGF officials about such a consortium and that he doesnt have a clue as to what the focus of such a consortium would be.

"Ive not had a chance yet to speak with anyone at Oracle, nor have any of the other GGF leaders, and so without more information its not yet clear what will be the focus of such a consortium," Catlett wrote.

The GGF has ongoing efforts to develop standards for integrating databases into open grid systems. This work is led by both industry and research experts, including Oracle researchers.

Oracle Executive Vice President of Server Technologies Chuck Rozwat in his keynote speech at OracleWorld last Wednesday revealed that Oracle is looking to hook up with partners—including large financial services and health care customers and hardware and hardware components companies—to start a consortium to churn out grid computing standards for commercial enterprises. At the time, Rozwat said that a commercially focused consortium would not compete with the GGF because it focuses on standards for research, not commercial, grid computing.

Thats just wrong, Catlett said. Forty percent of GGF members hail from industry, and two-thirds of sponsoring organizations are commercial outfits. Top sponsoring members include Cisco Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Microsoft Corp., Qwest Communications International Inc., Silicon Graphics Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. In addition, a "host" of smaller software and hardware companies participate, Catlett wrote. Technology end-user companies participating in the GGF include Johnson and Johnson, The Boeing Co., DaimlerChrysler AG, Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., Eli Lilly and Co., and Ford Motor Co.

One problem that could arise with Oracles move to create a separate specifications body is a dilution of the work thats already being done, Catlett told eWEEK in an interview. "In the absence of knowing exactly what sort of standards the Oracle people might want to do, I couldnt think of any standards they could be targeting that wouldnt be better done by plugging into GGF or OASIS or the W3C," he said. "The win weve seen is when you have people who are working on common problems. Its much better to get them all together and let them cross-fertilize rather than let them do things in different organizations."

As it is, the GGF will be hosting four new proposed working groups that address commercial business interests at its next meeting, GGF9, which is taking place in Chicago between Oct. 5-8. Those groups will address the topics of Business Process Grid, Configuration Description, Deployment, Lifecycle Management, Workflow Management and Grid API.

The Globus Alliance was also caught by surprise by Oracles announcement. Globus is another group that is dedicated to grid and which is working with GGF standards to build software tools for use in grid computing.

Ian Foster, a member of Globus governing board and associate division director of the Distributed Systems Lab of the Mathematics and Computer Science division of Argonne National Laboratory, said that Oracles decision to act independently would be a concern if it implied that Oracle is just grabbing on to the latest buzzword, as opposed to seriously committing itself to the development of grid technology and standards.

"Grid is a very important technology, but its also a big-time buzzword," said Foster, in Chicago. "People … may be saying [to their software vendors], What are you doing about grid? One way to [to show a companys involvement] is to get deeply engaged in the technology, and another is to just declare youre doing this. Hopefully, this doesnt represent Oracle just trying to declare theyve solved the problem."

An Oracle spokeswoman said that the company is not releasing any further details about Oracles consortium plans at this time.