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Grid Computing, Longhorn Overhyped, Experts Agree

With his corporate communications specialist cringing off stage, Rod Smith of IBM said what many in the IT business have come to suspect -- that grid computing is another one of the industry's overhyped propositions.

Speaking at a gathering of technology innovators at the recent XChange Tech Innovators conference in San Diego, Smith, the vice president of emerging technology at the world's largest computing company, responded crispy and succinctly to a direct question on what he considered to be the industry's most overhyped technology. It was just one of several topics that the panel of experts -- all top-level industry thinkers -- addressed at the event. In addition to other issues, the panelists cut through the hype surrounding grid computing and Microsoft's upcoming Longhorn OS, weighed in on upcoming software tools that will simplify systems and network integration in the years ahead, and touched on the opportunities VARs will have to field improved solution stacks.

What made Smith's comments so interesting, for example, is that his employer has planned for steep investments into grid and on-demand computing. While controversial, Smith won over the audience with a rationale vision of what is real and what it not in terms of grid today. He was echoed by Larry Singer, a senior vice president and technology visionary at Sun, who acknowledged that some in the industry have moved forward with grid technology, either developing or deploying it, without fully understanding the innards or capabilities of the technology. "Scaled grid makes sense," he said, comically adding that "sometimes it doesn't."

Smith and Singer were just two of the several experts on technology brought together by VARBusiness editors Alexander Wolfe and Carolyn April to debate, discuss and dissect some of the latest innovations and ideas in IT. They were joined in San Diego by Michael Robertson, CEO, Linspire; Bill Johnson, vice president of research and develop with HP's ProCurve division; Mark Iwanowski, senior vice president of global information technologies at Oracle; and Dwain Kinghorn, CTO of Altiris. On stage, the panel of experts covered Linux, handheld computing devices, fledgling industry standards, storage, security and other ideas. They took questions from solution providers attending the XChange conference and from April and Wolfe directly. Afterward, the executives huddled for a 90-minute, closed-door roundtable discussion that covered additional topics, including disruptive business models, complex software integration challenges and ways companies can get more out of their IT investments. (A full transcript of those executives comments will be showcased in VARBusiness' upcoming issue on Dec. 13.)

More than most, the question about the most overhyped technologies in the business today seemed to bring out the most candor from the technologists. Robertson, for example, drew howls of laughter on stage when he said there was a tie among overhyped innovations between mobile video and Microsoft's promising, albeit delayed and downscaled, Longhorn operating systems software. "You can't even get e-mail reliably," he said, "so video on phone? Gimme a break!"

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