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To Grid or Not to Grid

5:30 PM -- Grid computing has traditionally been the preserve of universities and government research labs, although the technology is popping up more and more in mainstream storage deployments. In the last few days, for example, archiving startup Permabit unveiled a grid-based version of its software, and startup Cleversafe Inc. revealed its plans for open-source "dispersed storage." (See Permabit Offers Storage Grid and Storage Gets Scattered.)

The rationale behind a storage grid certainly makes sense -- Permabit, for example, claims it can exploit the processing power of a grid architecture to make storage applications run faster by getting the application as close as possible to the processor. Permabit is selling its software bundled with Intel-based hardware from Avnet.

At least one analyst likes the idea of this and other grid-based storage efforts. (See EMC Unveils Grid Gameplan, EMC Refreshes NAS, SAN, EMC Ties Into Oracle, and Storage Vendors Enhance SMI-S.) "Databases can slow to a crawl as they get larger, but a grid underneath a database can really help," says Mike Karp, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA).

This is all well and good, but the reality of storage grids does not necessarily match end-user perception. At the recent Storage Networking World conference, for example, users and vendors alike were scratching their heads and wondering what the deal is with grids. (See Users Put Grids on the Grill.)

For one thing, there is still a great deal of confusion about what exactly constitutes a grid. Is a grid tied to one element of computing, or can it run multiple applications? With grid standards still very much in their infancy, it looks like there will be plenty to discuss for years to come.

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