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Legacy Models of Software Licensing Hindering Grid Computing Deployments

Enterprise licensing models are “throttling grid computing deployments,” so software companies need to develop new models if grid is to continue to grow in commercial markets.

That’s the conclusion of a report from The 451 Group. The 77-page report, “Grid Computing–The Impact of Software Licensing,” is the fourth published from the 451 Grid Adoption Research Service, an investigation into user experiences and vendor strategies.

Conventional software licenses built around what the firm calls legacy concepts of enterprise application use—the number of computers an application runs on—are fiscally impractical for implementations of grid applications. A grid could comprise hundreds of machines. Another complication: unlike clusters, which comprise homogeneous environments, grids are designed to work across many different platforms.

The report also found that alternative purchase models are appearing in the marketplace, suggesting that a change is under way “that will have a cumulative and disruptive impact on vendor licensing policies and practices.”

“Software licensing for grids must be seen within the context of other dynamics,” the report advises. “The ability to proactively manage the use of software licenses based on business objectives and in dynamic, virtual environments is not a grid-only issue. Grids are an important inflection point in this transformation, but the issue is a broader one for enterprise IT.”

As grid makes its way from traditional scientific and academic markets into widespread commercial adoption, licensing is just one of the questions enterprise IT managers are facing, says Mark Linesch, chair of the Global Grid Forum. Questions about standards, security, interoperability, infrastructure and corporate politics are cropping up as corporations begin grokking the grid.

“The whole industry—both the research community and the enterprise IT folks—is talking about the next stages in the evolution of distributed computing,” Linesch tells AppTrends. “We use a lot of terms—grids, virtualization, SOAs, adaptive, on-demand, real-time—but what we’re all really talking about is providing more abstraction and more flexibility for collaboration across organizational domains.”

As a community-initiated forum of researchers and practitioners developing grid computing standards and architectures, the GGF is all about promoting the pervasive adoption of grid computing for both traditional research and high-performance computing areas, and a growing number of enterprise customers. “Our community wants us to figure out how to standardize this stuff and how to share best practices,” Linesch says.

The GGF has also found that current enterprise licensing schemes are cost prohibitive when it comes to grid applications. The forum has begun establishing “communities of interest”—research groups—to explore mass adoption in the financial, pharmaceutical and telecommunications industries.

“What the vendors need to understand is that grid is about a lot more today than just sharing compute cycles,” Linesch says. “Grid is about storage and data and scarce instrumentation and collaboration. It’s still about scientific and high-performance computing, but it’s also about a manufacturer who wants to share data across different organizational boundaries to collaborate on the design of some airplane seats. It’s about a pharmaceutical company that wants to do drug discovery with three other startups. It’s about companies that want to bring together disparate data sources so they can orchestrate more effective business processes.”

For more information about the GGF, go to www.ggf.org. For more information about The 451 Group and its grid computing report, go to: www.the451group.com.

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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