Mark Linesch, Chairman, Global Grid Forum

Mark LineschGrid computing is in a tight spot these days.


Vendors such as IBM, Sun Microsystems, Oracle and others are throwing their
weight behind initiatives that allow many computers work to solve complex
problems, which is a good thing.


But the licensing issues that face grid computing vendors threaten
to thwart their ability to release products to customers without ripping
them off or giving away IT resources for a song.


Enter Mark Linesch, chairman of the Global Grid Forum (GGF), a not-for-profit
group of users, developers and vendors working toward the global
standardization and adoption of grid computing.

Before joining GGF, Linesch
cut his teeth as vice president for Hewlett-Packard’s Adaptive Enterprise
Program working on grid and distributed computing architectures.


It is exactly because GGF is a standards body that the public doesn’t hear a
whole lot about what it does. Looking to fix that issue, Linesch discussed
the state of grid computing ahead of the GridWorld show, slated for Oct. 3 to
Oct. 6 in Boston.

Q: Companies in financial, manufacturing and life sciences sectors appear
to be ahead of others in adopting grid computing, but it seems that
commercial grid applications have been evolving. Talk about the evolution
from grid computing in the research arena to the enterprise.


Grids (and GGF) grew out of the high-performance computing industry where
big compute problems like risk analysis in the finance sector and drug
discovery in the life science sector were prevalent.

We see the same type of
hunger for compute cycles, massive amounts of storage, and network bandwidth
in engineering design and in many hard sciences, such as astronomy and
high-energy physics.


In the past two years, enterprise case studies have revealed the impact
grids are making on other departments, such as customer service and portfolio
analysis.

For example, quotes or analyses that previously took 15 to 30
minutes to complete can now be done while the customer is on the phone.
There are many more examples of how grids are enabling enterprises to adjust
their business processes, reduce cycle time, better meet the needs of their
customers and gain competitive advantage.


Q: How are telcos going to contribute to the current grid and utility
computing boom, if at all?


We’re still at the early stages, but GGF sees telcos playing a unique role
in the future of grids for a number of reasons.

First of all, telcos
provide connectivity to a broad range of enterprises and their IT resources,
including computers, storage and even applications. Not all of these
resources are fully employed, and enterprises may wish to receive a return on
their investment by making these resources available.

Particularly, GGF sees
telcos serving as resource brokers, fulfilling end-user requests for
available resources through existing network bandwidth and switching
ability.


Q: What, if any, are the major concerns about or shortfalls of securing
grid architectures? How can vendors assuage customer fears about grid
security?


What’s unique to grids is that they center around the scalable sharing and
management of distributed resources — computing or storage resources, large
databases, unique instruments and so on. In grid security, it is not the
occasional human intrusion that people worry about; it is losing control
over all those resources at the same time.


One of the key issues that GGF is currently working on is emergency response
and distributed, cross-organizational authorization. How to quickly
disable in a controlled fashion what the grid once enabled. We also look
at how to best leverage the new standards and technologies that are emerging,
such as the Web services specifications described in our WS-Security Profile
now being adopted by the industry.


Q: We hear a lot of gripes from analyst firms about the problems with
coming up with equitable software licensing schemes for grids. Is this
something the GGF is looking to address? If so, what solutions do you have
in mind?


Software licensing is just one of a number of issues which early
adopters of grids are dealing with. In the case of licensing, while there
are a few technical issues, most of the barriers involve non-technical,
economic and policy issues that the industry must sort through. This is not
meant to trivialize the issue, as it is clear that a strict “one license per
CPU” model does not work well in a virtual collection of potentially
hundreds of CPUs.


GGF provides a forum in which end-users, software vendors, and others can
work collaboratively to identify reasonable and equitable options for all
parties.

GGF is opening the door to explore new licensing models such as
those that would charge for usage of the application, not just for the
absolute number of CPUs available in the grid.

These time-based usage models
incorporate rolling over minutes not used to a later time or not counting
minutes used to review execution results. Clearly, there will need to be
some flexibility and a lot of dialog over this issue.

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