TECH TALK: CommPuting Grid: Grid Computing

IBM’s Thomas Meyer offers an introduction:

First came the mainframes: huge hulking computational devices that lived in the rarefied atmospheres of big corporate and university labs, attended to by a secluded priesthood of engineers. Later came the desktop machines, mini- and microcomputers that gave computing power to an ever-expanding group of people at work and home.

Then came the client-server and networking technologies and protocols to hook all these machines together and allow them to communicate. Fast on the heels of all that came the Internet, which expanded our ability to communicate and share files and data with any networked machine on the planet.

Now we’re turning the corner on the next big thing: Grid computing, and it has as much potential for changing the way we do business as the Internet did. You’re probably already familiar with technologies such as Web services, XML, and object-oriented programming. Grid computing is a lot like these, if only conceptually.

IBM’s website offered the following definition:

Grid computing enables the virtualization of distributed computing and data resources such as processing, network bandwidth and storage capacity to create a single system image, granting users and applications seamless access to vast IT capabilities. Just as an Internet user views a unified instance of content via the Web, a grid user essentially sees a single, large virtual computer.

At its core, grid computing is based on an open set of standards and protocols e.g., Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA) that enable communication across heterogeneous, geographically dispersed environments. With grid computing, organizations can optimize computing and data resources, pool them for large capacity workloads, share them across networks and enable collaboration.

In fact, grid can be seen as the latest and most complete evolution of more familiar developments such as distributed computing, the Web, peer-to-peer computing and virtualization technologies.

Like the Web, grid computing keeps complexity hidden: multiple users enjoy a single, unified experience.

Unlike the Web, which mainly enables communication, grid computing enables full collaboration toward common business goals.

Like peer-to-peer, grid computing allows users to share files.

Unlike peer-to-peer, grid computing allows many-to-many sharing not only files but other resources as well.

Like clusters and distributed computing, grids bring computing resources together.

Unlike clusters and distributed computing, which need physical proximity and operating homogeneity, grids can be geographically distributed and heterogeneous.

Like virtualization technologies, grid computing enables the virtualization of IT resources.

Unlike virtualization technologies, which virtualize a single system, grid computing enables the virtualization of vast and disparate IT resources.

In the November 2002 issue of Release 1.0, Kevin Werbach wrote: Grid computing draws on an analogy to the electricity distribution system. Power from any generating station can serve any customer who needs it, across a huge geographic area. Businesses and residential users need not worry about the intricacies of transformers and peak load management; that all happens magically through the power grid. They simply plug into a wall jack and pay a bill.Grids bring some of that fluidity to computing. Kevin offered the following taxonomy:

P2P: networking devices, applications and data together horizontally through direct connections, rather than up and down though central servers. Its an architecture, not a business segment or a development model.
Web services: a set of standard XML protocols for component-based applications. The resulting business models and methodologies emphasize services with many constituent parts, rather than atomic applications, ultimately operating across corporate boundaries.
Clustering: operating a pool of similar computers as a single machine to handle a defined task.
Grid computing: treating heterogeneous collections of computing resources as a single multi-tasking computer. Grid computing is broader than clustering because of its heterogeneity.

Tomorrow: Grid Computing (continued)

TECH TALK CommPuting Grid+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.