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August 27, 2007

On-Demand Market Heating Up

Derrick Harris

After a brief vacation last week, I’m back in the saddle and ready to handle the increasingly busy world of distributed computing. After LinuxWorld and Next Generation Data Center earlier in the month, last week brought us VMware going public, its main rival XenSource being acquired by Citrix, and Oracle releasing its first new version of Coherence since acquiring Tangosol in March.

Of course, anyone interested in virtualization has by this point read countless commentaries and articles on these two developments, so I’ll keep my two cents brief and just reiterate how telling they are in terms of virtualization breaking into the mainstream. People love to do surveys and speculate on whether companies are adopting virtualization solutions – even for just straight-up server consolidation – but the bottom line is that there’s a reason VMware chose now for its IPO, and there’s a reason Citrix spent half a billion dollars on XenSource. As for the Oracle news, it represented my first opportunity to speak with former Tangosol CEO, now Oracle vice president of development, Cameron Purdy, and I was happy to hear that the transition went smoothly. In fact, Purdy said, the whole Tangosol team came along to Oracle, which should mean we can expect to see at least the same level of innovation, professionalism, etc., that we saw pre-March. Now that everything is in order and the company is speaking, you can expect to see more about this down the road.

As for this week’s issue, we take a look at the role Appistry has played in helping geospatial information and imaging leader GeoEye transform it high-performance computing infrastructure from an SMP platform to an 80-node (40 dual-core servers) application fabric. Appistry founder and chief strategist Bob Lozano likes to talk about how his company’s solution can help organizations mimic what Google is doing in terms of utilizing scale to maximize its Web 2.0 offerings, but GeoEye is a somewhat different story. Instead of providing services a la Google, GeoEye gives others the opportunity to play right alongside Google in the world of maps and 3-D imagery of the Earth. If Microsoft decided GeoEye’s images were good enough to be part of its impressive Live Search Maps service, they must be doing something right – and that speaks volumes about what Appistry has allowed them to do from an image-processing standpoint. And dichotomy of uses illustrates the beauty of companies like Appistry who offer everything necessary to handle Web-scale and highly transactional applications, as well as the ability to handle compute-intensive applications. In this case, a Web 2.0 company looking to offer some sort of 3-D or map service might use Appistry to handle its needs, while its imagery provider could very well be using Appistry software to process the images. Today’s on-demand, virtualized, highly scalable solutions offer a little something for everyone, and the potential market is broad, potentially rising vertically as well as expanding horizontally.

Another big story this week is the news that Ian Foster has been ranked by Nature magazine as the third most influential computer scientist, based on h-index method of ranking scientists. While GRIDtoday has been moving increasingly into the enterprise space, there is no doubt about the debt it owes Foster, who continues to be the face of grid computing to the outside world. To be honest, while the strictly mathematical formula ranks Foster third, I have to believe he would rank even higher in a more subjective ranking system. Grid computing, after all, is getting more and more press in mainstream news outlets, and when they need a source, they go to Foster. His role as director of the Argonne National Laboratory/University of Chicago Computation Institute doesn’t hurt his reputation either. At any rate, though, being listed as the third most influential anything in the entire world is nothing to scoff at, and for that Foster deserves – as the kids say – props. In the world of distributed computing, however, there is no question about Foster’s place.

In other news, be sure to read about distributed workloads driving server sales; Sony enhancing its PS3 Folding@home application; a new version of UNICORE grid middleware; and DATAllegro bringing grid computing to data warehousing, as well as any other announcements that might pique your interest.

Also, I’m really excited about some of the features we have coming down the pike, including a look at Web hosting companies offering grid platforms, a piece on how financial services firms are using GigaSpaces’ eXtreme Application Platform, and an in-depth look at the varying definitions and incarnations of utility computing. Much like grid computing, virtualization, SOA and just about every other IT buzzword, utility computing means many things to many people.

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Comments about GRIDtoday are welcomed and encouraged. Write to me, Derrick Harris, at editor@gridtoday.com.