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June 19, 2006

The Real Business Case for Grid Computing

Derrick Harris

This week’s issue features a healthy dose of SOA-related news and articles, which is just further proof (if you didn’t already know) that Grid computing is evolving from its roots as a CPU-harvesting technology to a technology that is enabling organizations to better manage their data and migrate to service- oriented infrastructures.

In fact, the lead article this week, which was authored by Art Sedighi of DataSynapse, discusses the complementary nature of Grid computing and SOA, and how Grid technologies can actually help ease the burden of companies looking to implement an SOA. Also of note is the announcement that Starwood Hotels & Resorts has chosen Tangosol (a company that has been showing up more and more in GRIDtoday) to provide the data grid foundation for the company’s SOA initiative, which is being implemented in part to offer faster, more comprehensive online booking of hotel rooms.

However, the idea of combining the capabilities of Grid computing with other, similar technologies is not exclusive to SOA. This week, Appistry will be announcing the latest version of its Enterprise Application Fabric, which combines Grid capabilities with those of real-time infrastructure, or RTI. While next week’s issue will include an article discussing this solution and the concept of fabric solutions in general, I do want to share one of the insights (I’ll hit on some more next week, as well) offered to me by Gartner’s Carl Claunch, with whom I spoke about the aforementioned article.

Claunch mentioned that RTI — which ranges from big-picture work like IBM’s On Demand or HP’s Adaptive Infrastructure to fabric-type solutions to workload managers and automatic provisioners — is viewed by end-users as a way to improve efficiency and lowers costs, whereas “most of the people in private sector who are doing Grid today are doing it because of some business advantage that’s really overwhelming — not for cost reduction.” Examples of this include financial services firms running more complex risk analyses or pharmaceutical firms speeding the time-to-market for new drugs.

While I cannot judge the accuracy of Claunch’s statement, it is very interesting, especially considering the number of times I’ve heard vendors tout Grid’s ability to maximize efficiency and cut costs — the same thing Claunch says users are turning to RTI to address. Considering how often the rate of commercial Grid adoption is discussed in GRIDtoday, and in the Grid community in general, I’m left to wonder if positioning Grid computing as the answer to data center inefficiency and ballooning hardware investments (although it certainly can help on this front) isn’t adding to the confusion many organizations have in regard to the technology.

If Claunch is correct in saying that “Grid, today … is being driven mostly by being able to achieve something that’s otherwise impossible,” perhaps it would be wise for Grid vendors to focus (more than they already are) on selling Grid computing as a business advantage versus a solution to pre-existing problems — especially if enterprises are already looking elsewhere to address these issues.