A Case of Deja Vu

By Derrick Harris

July 24, 2006

While I usually like to share my thoughts on a particular topic (or topics) in this section, it appears that I don’t have anything to say this week. More accurately, I don’t have anything more to say (well, maybe a little).

Why? Because this issue is filled with articles and announcements (the entire Special Features section, in fact) about issues or products on which I’ve shared my thoughts in prior commentaries. Right from the top, we have a Q&A I did with Appistry CEO Kevin Haar. If you’ll recall, I wrote at length about Appistry and the idea of fabrics in the June 19 and June 26 issues. The next article down is about United Devices, and includes some comments on Thursday’s roundtable event, which I discussed just last week. Next up, we have the announcement of the “Help Defeat Cancer” project running on IBM’s World Community Grid. Again last week, if you recall, I shared some of my thoughts on the plethora of distributed computing projects out there for those interested in sharing their spare cycles (I, myself, am a climateprediction.netter). Finally, there is the announcement of Independent Valuation and Risk Services Limited (IVRS) using CDO2’s pricing and risk technology, which is hosted on the Sun Grid, to significantly speed it credit portfolio analyses. Way back when, on April 17, I shared my personal, albeit small-scale, experience with Sun Grid.

I must, say, though, that I’m happy to hear that companies are finding success with this utility-type, hosted model. While it has its drawbacks, it really does seem like a logical advancement in how we do computing on a large scale, and I think as more companies share these success stories, others will likely give it a try.

Personally, I see parallels between utility computing and the emergence of music services like Apple’s iTunes and its competitors. While there are some music fans, like myself, who still primarily purchase CDs, there are many others who are content with simply buying whatever tracks suit them on any particular day for only 99 cents apiece. This model requires no hardware, aside from a computer, and you don’t have to purchase a whole CD when all you really want is the hit single. Plus, it’s there whenever you want it — no store hours or shipping times. Pretty convenient, huh? But what if the music files on your computer were to get corrupted or deleted? What if your iPod falls into the ocean? Well, that’s why the serious music collectors, the ones who arrange their CDs in alphabetical, then chronological, order, still buy those archaic discs (and back them up, versus primarily store them, on a hard drive). If anything happens to the computer, everything is still present in a physical form; they have control over the music. The same could easily be said about companies and HPC resources. While I wouldn’t expect a major financial institution to rely on the Sun Grid, or any other hosted service for that matter, there is definitely a large number of users for whom this on-demand access to computing power and applications could prove a winning strategy.

Oh, and there are some other articles of interest, too. We have United Devices launching its Virtual Cluster solution; Platform, Digipede and Altair each taking on different vertical markets; and the Open Grid Forum seeking speakers for a Grid management workshop during GridWorld in September. Of course, if you’re interested in research networks, storage, virtualization, etc., we’ve got that news covered, as well — just give the table of contents a glance.

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