RealTime IT News

A Banner Year For Grid Computing

While 2002 may be a year to forget for the rest of the IT industry, it was one to remember for Grid computing vendors.

Boosted by IBM's embrace of Grid technology, Grid computing vendors saw deployments soar this year.

The number of announced Grid deployments from private Grid vendors (Avaki, DataSynapse, Entropia, Platform Computing and United Devices) soared from 7 in 2001 to 26 in 2002, a growth rate of 270%.

The technology was given a major boost by Big Blue's push into Grid computing that began in August 2001, but it also helped to have the right technology at the right time.

"I do think that the inimitable IBM PR machine, as well as their very real technical contributions and financial commitments, have had a significant impact on the visibility and acceptance of Grid concepts and deployments within industry," said Ian Foster, co-leader of the open source Globus Project that has become the de facto standard for Grid computing. "Of course, we should not downplay the major contributions of the open source movement and the other small and large companies who are pursuing competing or complementary approaches."

"There has definitely been an uptick as the technology is now being more widely accepted," said Mark Roth of DataSynapse. "I think it's more of a realization that in this environment in which IT managers are tasked with doing more with less, there is finally a solution."

Ten-year-old Platform Computing remains the clear leader in the Grid space, accounting for 13 of the 26 announced Grid deployments so far this year.

But Avaki, Entropia and United Devices established themselves as contenders this year, with 5, 4 and 3 announced deployments, respectively, and UD is expected to announce another major deployment soon.

"Entropia, Avaki, and UD seem to be gaining traction," Foster observed.

Grid's growth appears to have continued throughout 2002, with 11 deployments in the first half of the year and 15 so far in the second half.

"UD is seeing a significant amount of commercial interest in our MetaProcessor solution, and many deals in the pipeline appear to be accelerating," said United Devices' Paul Kirchoff. "I think the traditional Grid value proposition, especially in a tough CapEx environment, is causing research and IT professionals to look for business levers that move the needle. Deploying HPC apps on infrastructure you already own is a huge win if done correctly."

Grid technology remains primarily a tool for compute-intensive R&D and scientific applications, with all the deployments falling into areas such as life sciences, financial services and scientific research. For Grid to enter the IT mainstream, it will need applications that address core business practices.

The industry made some strides in that direction this year. Platform Computing, for example debuted Platform Symphony, a transactional platform for the financial services industry that was adopted by JP Morgan.

Avaki CTO and co-founder Andrew Grimshaw said his company is "seeing a widening of the industries that are taking a good hard look at Grids."

Avaki has seen adoption in the life sciences, manufacturing, financial services, and oil and gas industries, Grimshaw said, "but we believe that Grids, and specifically data Grids, solve enterprise IT challenges irrespective of industry. For instance, data Grids can be applied to a range of data access challenges within an enterprise, such as wide-area access to distributed data, multi-company data access for efficient partner collaboration, and delivering distributed data for remote processing."

Grimshaw said IBM "has had a huge impact on commercial deployments. They legitimized the field." But academic and government deployments, many of which were already in the pipeline, have been more affected by the NSF-funded TeraGrid in the U.S. and the eSciences effort in the UK, he said.

2003 could be another big year for Grid technology. A set of standards emerging under the Open Grid Services Architecture effort could speed adoption further and accelerate the development of Grid applications.

"Progress in Grids will be enabled by open standards, open software, and open infrastructure," Foster said. "OGSA is providing the open standards, is being delivered via both open and commercial software, and can be expected to provide a basis for more and more infrastructure, both public and private.

"I expect OGSA to enable the Grid industry the way IP enabled the Internet industry. We're seeing tremendous enthusiasm and many public statements of support for OGSA as a basis for commercial deployments and interoperable commercial technologies."

Dan Powers, IBM's vice president of Grid Strategy, said, "When the history of Grid is written, I believe people will look back and mark 2003 as one of the key development years because of the introduction of Open Grid Services Architecture. ... It's the common framework that will allow businesses to build Grids over a network using open standards to enable heterogeneous operations."