Consultant: Grid's the 'next big thing'
- By John K. Waters
Grid computing, the collaborative, network-based model that enables the
sharing of data and computing cycles among many processors, represents a new
computing paradigm with the potential to dramatically alter the IT industry's
That's the conclusion of a new report entitled ''The Global Grid Computing
Report 2002 -- Technology and Market Opportunity Assessment'' from consulting
firm Grid Technology Partners. The report was unveiled during the recent Grid
Computing Planet Conference & Expo in San Jose, Calif. ''Companies that pay
attention to this evolving technology will stand to reap huge gains in the
coming years,'' the report declares.
Demand for computing power in industries such as the
life sciences and financial services is virtually unlimited, said Ahmar Abbas,
managing director of San Jose-based Grid Technology Partners (http://www.gridpartners.com
Because the grid computing model leverages existing resources, it delays the
need to purchase new infrastructure, and presents an extremely compelling
picture to budget-strapped IT departments.
''Grid is cheaper than a server farm,'' Abbas told conference attendees.
''You can leverage whatever you have and avoid the wholesale replacement of
infrastructure.'' Abbas, who worked at UUNET and ONI Systems as an electrical
engineer before launching Grid Technology Partners, said that he has talked with
a ''big Wall Street firm'' that was willing pay $1 million for a server farm
just to cut the time it takes to run risk calculations in half. With grid
computing, the time could be cut even further, he said, and at much lower cost.
According to the company's debut research report, ''Grid Computing takes
collective advantage of the vast improvements in microprocessor speeds, optical
communications, raw storage capacity, World Wide Web and the Internet that have
occurred over the last five years. A set of standards and protocols are being
developed that completely disaggregate current compute platforms and distribute
them across a network as resources that can be called into action by any
eligible user (person or machine) at any time. A company with 600 grid-enabled
desktop PCs can utilize all of them together as one compute platform -- suddenly
providing it with enough computing capacity to go head-to-head with the world's
49th largest supercomputer.''
But the advent of the grid isn't good news for everyone, Abbas said. For
example, even though Sun Microsystems is often listed among the leading firms in
this space, the company is ''at risk'' because its ''software and hardware
platforms are tied too closely together,'' he said. IBM, on the other hand, is
''on the mark'' because of its more neutral approach to software. IBM's work on
the Globus Project, a multi-institutional research and development venture that
is creating fundamental technologies for computational grids, in particular sets
the company apart in this space, Abbas said.
A primary product of the Globus Project is the open source Globus Toolkit,
which is being used in numerous large grid deployment and application projects
in the United States, Europe and around the world. The Globus Project is based
at Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Southern California's
Information Sciences Institute.
Another sign of increasing interest in the grid-computing model, Abbas
pointed out, is the top-seller status of a grid textbook edited by Globus team
leaders Ian Foster and Carl Kesselman. According to Abbas, it is one of
Amazon.com's biggest sellers to readers in Menlo Park, Calif., the epicenter of
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached