Keynote: Grids to Grow

Argonne National Lab director Ian Foster predicts that grid is set to break out of its research niche

June 7, 2005

3 Min Read
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CHICAGO Supercomm 2005 – Despite uncertainty about standards, grid computing will penetrate corporate data centers in the next two years, with a little open-source help, according to Ian Foster, associate director of the Argonne National Laboratory and professor of computer science at the University of Chicago.

Grid guru Foster used his keynote at the Supercomm show here to explain that grid technology is casting off its reputation as the preserve of universities and – ahem – government research labs. “I expect to see, over the next one to two years, the finalization of a core set of standards, but even, before that, large-scale commercial grid deployments,” he said.

Foster is involved in two major U.S. grid projects: the 10,000 CPU TeraGrid and the 4,000 CPU Open Science Grid. Apparently, corporate America's interest in these is growing. “Over the last three years, but especially over the last year, the commercial sector has been coming to talk to us about it,” he tells NDCF.

Certainly, some big-name enterprises, such as General Motors and Johnson & Johnson, have already tested the grid computing waters (see Software Licensing Gridlock). And a range of vendors have already jumped on the grid computing bandwagon (see Sun Offers Range of New Options and IBM Builds Grids for Auto Industry).

Foster sees more growth in the near term, starting with areas where grid has already established a toehold – financial services, manufacturing, and the pharmaceutical industry.All this represents something of a sea-change in how enterprises perceive grid technology. In the past, users have bemoaned the lack of standards in the grid computing space, and many feel the lack is hampering the technology’s progress (see Grid Computing: Baby Steps).

Standards work is apparently proceeding apace: The Global Grid Forum (GGF) is currently the main driver behind standards, and is responsible for the Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA), which is designed to bring together the myriad technology strands of grid computing. A key element of this is Web services, where standards are being developed by the likes of OASIS and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

But in his keynote, New Zealand-born Foster told attendees not to worry about what happens while we wait for the various standards to get ratified. Instead, Foster highlighted the work being done by the GlobusAlliance, which has produced an open-source middleware toolkit for building grid systems and applications (see Vendors Form Globus Consortium).

The toolkit will boost the rollout of commercial grids over the coming years, according to Foster, as well as enabling users to retain a degree of independence. “If you’re careful and target open standards, open source, it’s possible to avoid vendor lock-in."

Foster adds that the open-source grid community appears to be following a path similar to the development of Linux. Elmhurst, Ill.-based startup Univa Corp., he says, is now offering commercial support for the Globus Toolkit, following the lead of commercial Linux vendors like Red Hat Inc. (Nasdaq: RHAT).— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-Gen Data Center Forum

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