Compaq finds

Grid computing got a big boost on Wednesday when Platform Computing Inc. made the open-source Globus toolkit commercially available and pulled together through partnerships another grid solution that Compaq Computer Corp. will sell.

The vision of grid computing is that computer systems the world over, from desktops to the heartiest of supercomputers, will be connected in a manner much like power grids. With that type of structure in place, users and systems then can plug into the grid to access software, services, and unused computing cycles.

Industry experts are coining the phrase “Great Global Grid” as a future generation of the World Wide Web, only far more powerful. But thus far, grids have largely been relegated to the academic and scientific communities.

In the deals it pulled together, Toronto-based Platform Computing aims to commercialize grid computing through an open-source suite of tools and another suite that won’t be open source.

The open-source toolbox is the result of workings with Globus, a research project that developed the tools. Platform will provide commercial support for the Globus Toolkit, which includes protocols, services, and tools. As part of the support package, Platform will offer installation, integration, training, and general consulting.

The other facet of Platform’s strategy is to provide the Platform Grid Suite, a set of technologies for building grids based on its own technology combined with software from Avaki and Globus. The overall suite includes Platform’s own clustering capabilities, peer-to-peer software, file transfer, and scalability products. Additionally, the Globus toolkit is included and Cambridge, Mass.-based Avaki will contribute a product that enables virtualized data access and compute resources in wide-area environments.

Compaq, in Houston, will re-sell the suite on its Alpha-based server hardware as part of a grid-enabled solution.

“We’ll be able to provide grids from the desktop all the way to geographically dispersed locations outside the enterprise,” said Ian Baird, chief grid strategist and chief business architect at Platform Computing.

But grid computing’s road to commercialization, like its World Wide Web predecessor, will be a long one. And like the Web itself, analysts are expecting that grids will be built incrementally, as dictated by demand.

Furthermore, while grids promise to connect companies to each other more effectively than the current Internet, managing such connectivity will continue to be difficult for the time being.

“The process of connecting companies, programmatically or otherwise, is just a very organic, messy process. The concept of a distributed grid isn’t going to change that,” said Brent Sleeper, a partner at the Stencil Group, a San Francisco-based research and consulting firm.