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April 21, 2008

SaaS: The Closest Thing to Grid’s Killer App?

Derrick Harris

For years, now, people have people have been searching for grid computing’s killer app, for that use case that will propel grid into the mainstream and justify the incredible amount of hype the technology has received. Here’s a newsflash: it’s probably not going to happen.

But here’s the silver lining: grid technologies have all sorts of enterprise uses, some of which might actually make it more relevant as enterprise computing undergoes “the big switch.”

One of these emerging uses is as the delivery platform for software as a service. In fact, one of this week’s feature articles deals exclusively with this scenario as it has played out at Demandware in the form of an on-demand e-commerce application. Demandware built the base enterprise-class application, which it continues to regularly update with new features, and its big-time online retail customers can customize, test and develop the app as they see fit. All of this is accomplished thanks to the virtualized grid platform Demandware has developed for the application. According to Demandware’s Wayne Whitcomb, the availability, scalability, flexibility and customizability Demandware offers would hardly be possible without grid technologies.

Actually, this comes into play in our other feature, as well, as Egenera counts among its customers managed service provider SAVVIS. SAVVIS uses Egenera software to virtualize its infrastructure, thereby adding flexibility and making its utility computing services even more utility-like.

Call it cloud computing, call it utility computing, call it whatever you want. The bottom line is that more and more ISVs and Web service providers are turning to outsourced, in-the-cloud computing — or to in-house, in-the-internal-cloud computing — to house and power their SaaS offerings, and they need platforms that can deliver what customers will demand. I’ve been told by several providers of grid-based hosting that they’re seeing quite a bit of uptake from companies wanting to offer software as a service, and Nick Carr even told me one potentially lucrative market for Sun Microsystems could be in selling the hardware and software necessary to build tomorrow’s centralized utility datacenters.

Killer app? Probably not, but it definitely seems to be a high-growth area for grid technologies as the clouds continue to move in.

Speaking of cloud computing, which I seem to do every day now, be sure to check out the following cloud announcements: “Amazon Web Services Launches Premium Support”; “Coghead Intros EC2-Based Application Publishing Model”; “Panorama Intros Enterprise BI Solution for Google Apps”; “10gen Releases Alpha Version Cloud App Server”; and “Industry Supporting Cloud Computing Marketing OS.”

Other news of interest might be: “GemStone, Talentain Bring Real-Time Data to Asian Markets”; “Chronopolis Project to Preserve At-Risk Digital Information”; “Ad Hoc Encyclopedia for the Information Age”; “Enigmatec Melds Run Book Automation, Automated DR”; “Report Highlights Virtualization Trends, Leaders, Challenges”; and “Egenera Brings VMware Virtualization to BladeFrame.”

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