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May 14, 2007

Why Web 2.0 Needs Grid Computing

Derrick Harris

If one were asked to cite companies whose datacenters epitomize the idea of Grid 2.0, he could do a lot worse than to point to any of the Internet giants that have taken advantage of grid technologies to forever transform the ways in which we shop, access information and communicate, and address just about every other aspect of our lives.

Companies like Google, Yahoo!, Amazon and eBay set the standard because they are using their massive, distributed computing infrastructures to not only host applications and store data, but also to host countless services, both internal and external, and handle hundreds of millions to billions of transactions every single day — in real time. It is for this reason that I am so pleased to have Paul Strong, the man spearheading eBay’s current grid efforts, contributing this week’s lead article. If there’s one man who understands what it means to manage epic quantities of data and provide access to it in real-time across numerous applications and services, and across a vast network, it’s Paul.

In his article, “Interesting Times for Distributed Datacenters,” Strong takes on just this topic, discussing grid computing’s expansion from being solely an HPC technology to being the basis for the distributed platforms necessary to make the Web 2.0 world run. If his assertion is correct, then I have to question every time I’ve read an analyst or “mainstream” IT columnist declare grid a promise unfulfilled and/or a technology that simply isn’t mature enough to handle the big, scary world of commercial IT. Rather, it would seem that grid technologies, while not always possessing life-changing capabilities out of the box, are firmly entrenched among some of today’s most important IT users — and their grids, or whatever you want to call them, aren’t going away anyime soon.

I’ll finish my thoughts on this by giving a rather large excerpt from Strong’s article, which sums up this idea far more succinctly than my attempt:

Historically, the term “grid computing” has been intimately associated with the high-performance and technical computing community. The term was, of course, coined by some leading members of that community and, unsurprisingly, to many it has been almost completely defined within the context of this specific type of use. Yet when you look closely at what grid computing actually is predicated upon, it becomes apparent that the notion of grid computing is far more universally applicable than perhaps many people think. Indeed, one could make the assertion that grids are the integrated platforms for all network-distributed applications or services, whether they are computationally or transactionally intensive.

In other news, last week saw the Open Grid Forum and the Enabling Grids for E- sciencE project co-locate their respective meetings in Manchester, England, drawing in more than 900 attendees. And although the combined conference didn’t produce large amounts of news in the form of product announcements, vendor partnerships, etc., it did produce a little. If you check out our “Scientific Applications” section, you’ll see three items — “Full Speed Ahead for the Grid,” “Science on the Grid — Live” and “Users Set the Standard” — from EGEE recapping various demonstrations and applications showcased over the course of the week. In addition, the OGF portion of the event should producing some news in the weeks/months to come, as organizational leadership planned to use OGF20 as an opportunity to conduct face-to-face interviews with the more-promising presidential candidates. It shouldn’t be long now before we learn who will be replacing Mark Linesch come autumn.

Rounding out the issue, we have a slew of big announcements, including: EMC forming an information infrastructure research network; Appistry EAF supporting Spring; Oracle updating its Fusion Middleware; Lenovo joining the ranks of those using Callidus’ Sun Grid-powered on-demand application; and WS- Transaction becoming an OASIS standard.


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