Grid-based computing recently made headlines when it was lauded as the next evolutionary step in the history of computing and the future of the Internet.
Suggestive of an electricity grid, the name refers to numerous attuned devices sharing computing resources in new and exciting ways. From global file-swapping networks that are far more reliable than todays online versions, to peer-networks geared to solving the complex riddles of particle physics, grids are expected to connect PCs in ways that overcome all the bottlenecks and hindrances that plague todays Web.
Like the Net, the Grid is the child of academic and scientific institutions who are constantly on the look out for ever-faster and more reliable ways to process information. Born out of a desire for greater reliability and security, Grids are deemed to be the future of collaborative problem-solving (whether corporate or academic) and, if technologists are to be believed, they may play a decisive role in reformulating the Internet of tomorrow.
Over 400 participants at the Global Grid Forum (GGF) that ran in Amsterdam earlier this year discussed the problems and benefits surrounding the formation of the Grid in minute detail.
“The Grid will open up storage and transaction power in the same way that the Web opened up content,” said Cisco Systems’ Bob Aiken. “You’re going to have multiple grids, multiple sets of middleware that people are going to choose from to satisfy their applications.”
IBM’s Brian Carpenter added that the Grid would turn computing into a utility just like any other utility.
Though the concept of a Grid (or Grids) is currently restricted to the scientific community the notion is expanding to include financial institutions, the medical profession, astronomers, and global Napster-like networks.
“The World Wide Web gave us a taste, but the Grid gives a real vision of a truly ICT (Information and Communication Technology)-enabled world,” said GGF conference moderator Walter Hoogland.
Nonetheless, though technical issues still fetter the evolution of global grids, by far the greatest impediment is the same one that still plagues the evolution of global e-marketplaces: how to facilitate sharing between erstwhile competitors and strangers between whom no history of trust exists.