ActiveGrid Promotes Grids For All By Taking An Open-Source Route

Startup debuts application server and development tools for building grid-ready applications.

April 11, 2005

3 Min Read
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San Francisco startup ActiveGrid Inc. launched two products for grid computing Monday and, in a surprise move, says it's offering both as open-source code at SourceForge, a directory of in-development open-source software.

Speculation on ActiveGrid's additions to the open-source library have aired on and off in recent days on such public forums as Slashdot, the open-source code news site. By opening up its first products, Grid Application Server and ActiveGrid Application Builder, ActiveGrid CEO Peter Yared says he hopes a strong developer community will form around them and encourage their use.

ActiveGrid will continue its own development of the open-source code and bring out commercial products built on top of them. Yared describes ActiveGrid as a commercial open-source company, as do predecessors JBoss Inc., the Java application server company, and MySQL AB, the open-source database company.

Yared is the former chief technology officer for application servers at Sun Microsystems. He also headed development of technology for the Liberty Alliance, Sun's consortium to establish a standard identity-authentication system for the Web. He left Sun in May 2003.

Yared says companies can be built today around the principles of low-cost hardware and elements of the open-source suite known as LAMP--Linux, Apache, MySQL, and the scripting languages Perl, Python, and PHP. A start-up company can build its IT system on top of a handful of low-cost Intel servers, and the company can scale up its computing resource as it grows with more Intel servers and ActiveGrid software.The ActiveGrid Application Builder development tool is aimed at programmers who might not know C++ or Java, but are comfortable with the more English-like syntax of scripting languages. "We target the wizard-using developers," Yared says.

In addition, Yared and a small staff have been working for more than a year to create an application server that could take advantage of any number of units of Intel hardware running Linux.

Grid computing that uses PHP or other scripting languages would be a good foundation for producing rapidly changing applications for a large numbers of users, Frank Gillett, Forrester Research analyst, said of ActiveGrid's approach to the market.

"It's not suitable for the entire enterprise application portfolio. It's got a sweet spot of where there's custom-built development for the masses," Gillett says.

Gillett uses Oracle's recent acquisition of PeopleSoft as a hypothetical example of where ActiveGrid Application Builder would be useful, building a portal that hosted a variety of projects, information, and links to internal databases to help smooth the merger process for managers and employees. ActiveGrid produces an application server that can scale out to govern applications running on up to 1,024 processors.Yared says that frequently changing applications are a target market for ActiveGrid, but its Grid Application Builder graphical development environment is also suitable for enterprise development.

Application Builder is based on XML and XML standards, such as XPath and XForms, along with the scripting languages PHP, Perl, and Python. All have gained popularity with Web-site developers for their ability to link disparate elements on a site and get them to work together.

The firm was funded with $3 million last July by Hummer Winblad Venture Partners and Allegis Capital.

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