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Grid Computing Will Drive Future Internet Growth, Economist Says

TORONTO - Internet traffic could grow eight times more than forecast over the next decade because of commercial adoption of Grid computing and related P2P applications, economist Robert Cohen said yesterday at Global Grid Forum 4.

Cohen, of New York-based Cohen Communications Group, focuses on the Internet and telecom industries. He said Internet traffic will begin to double again next year and accelerate to annual rates of 150% or more from 2005-2008, with Grid computing the main driver of bandwidth use.

Current forecasts, such as McKinsey-JP Morgan, assume that annual growth will slow to about 60% by 2005, with traffic growth driven largely by video streaming and video file transfers, Cohen said.

But peered servers will begin to drive Internet traffic growth in the U.S. in the next 12-18 months, Cohen said, spurred in part by huge projected declines in the price of backbone bandwidth.

Cohen said his methodology was based on "a Delphi-like series of interviews with network engineers and experts" to determine current and future traffic flows; explicit adjustments for price changes using a measure of demand elasticity for bandwidth; and measures of capacity at three points in time for most Internet routes. He adjusted the numbers for the current economic downturn.

Driving that projected bandwidth growth will be Grid computing, which aggregates compute resources and cycles for powerful applications. Already widely used in life sciences, Cohen expects greater use of Grid and collaborative technologies in financial, R&D, and general decision-making drawing on a wide range of data resources. Software for collaboration will bring more data resources into use, boosting server-to-server traffic. Consumers could also turn to collaborative capabilities, shifting spending to the Internet to pay for higher levels of services.

Grid computing enables communities, or "virtual organizations," to share resources as they pursue common goals, and new applications will enable the coordinated use of geographically distributed resources, Cohen said. As data access becomes more important to businesses, resources will shift to support that focus, he said. With rapid growth of Grid computing, P2P and server-to-server (S2S) traffic could account for nearly 90% of Internet traffic by 2008, he said.

Cohen said that if collaboration supports the growth of relatively low-cost broadband, services might be delivered at much lower cost via end-to-end networks, shifting labor to machines and substantially boosting productivity. Collaborative technologies could change how businesses and individuals pay for the Internet, with data services pricing done on a value-added basis instead of ISPs competing on a price basis for data transport, he said.

Globus, Platform, Avaki Announce New Initiatives

Cohen's predictions for the growth of Grid computing are supported by attendance at Global Grid Forum events, which is expected to double from last year to 500-700 attendees at this year's events. About 500 people attended the Toronto meeting, which ends tomorrow.

Among the announcements at the meeting, Platform Computing announced the availability of Platform Globus, the first commercially supported version of the widely adopted Globus Toolkit, and Avaki proposed a Secure Grid Naming Protocol. The Open Grid Services Architecture, the Globus-IBM vision for the convergence of Grid computing and Web services, was well received, which will likely lead to the formation of a formal working group on Grid services. And IBM is expected to make a significant Grid announcement tomorrow.