Grid guru touts technology’s ability

Kicking off the InfoWorld CTO Forum last month in Boston, Ian Foster told corporate technology leaders that the time is nigh to start using grid technologies.

Foster, who is Argonne National Laboratory’s associate division director and works with grid standards body Global Grid Forum, also used his keynote to tell attendees that grids are real today, to explain the relationship between grids and Web services, and to shed some light on where he thinks grids are headed in the future.

He said that if enterprises get in the game now they can apply necessary pressure on vendors to support open standards as they issue grid computing products, which can help to avoid a plethora of proprietary solutions, he said.

Foster continued by saying that a number of factors are coming to the fore that contribute to grid’s viability in the enterprise.

“Grids do address pain points in a variety of industries,” Foster said. “We’re starting to see adoption in industry.”

Furthermore, grid computing standards and technologies are maturing. There are more than 20 working groups in place, for example, to define things such as the OGSA (Open Grid Services Architecture) platform and security for grids. On the tools front, version 3 of the Globus toolkit is due out in June, Foster said.

Grid technologies are also gaining the backing of major vendors, including IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Oracle Corp., NEC Corp., Fujitsu Ltd., Avaki Corp. and Platform Computing Inc. IBM late last month introduced a version of the Globus toolkit for its zSeries mainframes in conjunction with Linux distributor SuSE Linux AG.

Also in March, DataSynapse Inc., a grid middleware maker, delivered its LiveCluster 3G for Linux on IBM’s zSeries. Platform Computing, meanwhile, issued three Linux-based products for zSeries: Platform LSF, designed to provide on-demand access to an enterprise’s global compute resources; Platform JobScheduler for accelerating batch processing by integrating and grid-enabling silos of applications and the flow of processes across server clusters; and Platform MultiCluster, which allows larger companies to create a single computing environment with built-in resource sharing policies.

Foster also said that grids are reaping Web services standards. “Everything we do in OGSI is built on Web services,” he said.

Grids take the idea of Web services further, however, and extend some of the Web services standards, he added. The Global Grid Forum, for example, contributed to a forthcoming version of WSDL (Web Services Description Language).

While Web services address the discovery and invocation of persistent services, grid technologies aim to support transient services, and are capable of creating and destroying dynamically.

“We want to support apps that behave more dynamically,” Foster said.

Moving forward, Foster explained, grids will spawn more innovation that leads to a new class of applications, while continuing to reduce the cost of provisioning, enable data federation and integration, as well as virtualization.

“[Grids are] going to be a key enabler of new technologies, new innovations and new industries,” he said.