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Can Grid meet its challenges?

Ask industry maven Ahmar Abbas about the future of grid computing, and he's likely to give you a good-news-bad-news answer: ''No matter which way you slice it,'' Abbas said, ''the business case for grid computing is quite clear. The challenge lies in making the grid-enablement process at enterprises seamless.''

Abbas sees grid computing, the collaborative, network-based model that enables the sharing of data and computing cycles among many processors, as a new paradigm that could dramatically alter the IT industry's competitive landscape. But Abbas, managing director of research firm Grid Technology Partners, added that the promise of grid computing won't be fulfilled without a rich set of application integration capabilities and operational intelligence tools that not only make grid deployments straightforward, but easy to monitor and manage in production.

Bill Philbin, senior vice president of product development at grid computing solutions provider Entropia Inc., agrees: ''Enterprises want to enable both in-house proprietary applications as well as third-party applications for PC grid computing without disclosing source code or requiring integration services from external vendors,'' he said in a recent company release. ''They also want to be certain that a misbehaving application or a misbehaving user cannot compromise the enterprise network, nor the mission-critical work being performed throughout the PC grid.''

All of which are problems Entropia is seeking to address with DCGrid 5.0, unveiled last week. DCGrid is said to aggregate the unused processing cycles of networks of existing Windows-based PCs. The open platform architecture of the product is independent of any particular application, and it can be configured to accommodate and run an enterprise's distributed computing applications concurrently, allowing integration of business critical applications on its platform with no application source code needed, Philbin said.

The new version of DCGrid includes changes in platform design and security, as well as resource, utility and job management. Key changes include the ability to provide binary level integration, a core technology that allows any native 32-bit Windows application to be integrated without modifying source code. Thus, whether an application is open source, third party, or proprietary, it can be run on DCGrid, Philbin said.

San Diego, Calif.-based Entropia is dependent on widespread acceptance of the grid computing model -- the firm was founded in 1997 to develop products for distributed computing. The company released the first commercial version of its grid-computing platform in September 2000. That technology keyed the firm's move to take part in a pair of non-profit research initiatives -- the FightAIDSatHome computing project formed to find an effective treatment for AIDS and the SaferMarkets project to predict stock market volatility. In recent years, the company has been focusing on the enterprise with its DCGrid product line.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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