According to Clay Shirky, grids are not the next big thing as everyone making them out to be.
Supercomputing on tap won’t live up to to this change-the-world billing, because computation isn’t a terribly important part of what people do with computers. This is a lesson we learned with PCs, and it looks like we will be relearning it with Grids.
If users needed Grid-like power, the Grid itself wouldn’t work, because the unused cycles the Grid is going to aggregate wouldn’t exist. Of all the patterns supported by decentralization, from file-sharing to real-time collaboration to supercomputing, supercomputing is the least general.
Networks are most important as ways of linking unevenly distributed resources — I know something you don’t know; you have something I don’t have — and Grid technology will achieve general importance to the degree that it supports those kinds of patterns. The network applications that let us communicate and share in heterogeneous environments, from email to Kazaa, are far more important uses of the network than making all the underlying computers behave as a single supercomputer.