GRIDWORLD: IBM has first Grid and Grow app partners

IBM Corp. announced the first application vendors — SAS Institute Inc. and Absoft Corp. — to support its Grid and Grow bundle of software, hardware and services Tuesday.

Big Blue first unveiled the bundle two months ago positioning it as a starter pack for midsize and large companies wanting to move into grid computing.

IBM is now looking to extend the offering in a variety of ways both in terms of targeted users and vendor support.

SAS has added automated grid management capabilities to its SAS 9 Enterprise Intelligence Platform application so it will run on top of IBM’s Grid and Grow bundle. Absoft has designed its high-performance computing software development kit (HPC SDK) to work with the hardware and service components of IBM’s bundle.

IBM, SAS and Absoft made the announcement at the GridWorld show, an inaugural event taking place in Boston through Thursday.

IBM launched Grid and Grow at the LinuxWorld show in San Francisco in August with support from Intel Corp. and three middleware vendors that sell scheduling software — Altair Engineering Inc., DataSynapse Inc. and Platform Computing Inc.

The bundle is based on IBM’s eServer BladeCenter blade running processors either from Intel, IBM or Advanced Micro Devices Inc. with a choice of operating systems — Linux from Red Hat Inc. or Novell Inc. or Microsoft Corp.’s Windows or IBM’s own AIX 5L Unix.

IBM is looking to expand the Grid and Grow program in a number of different directions, according to Ken King, vice president, grid computing at IBM. “We’re trying to take it into the midmarket versus just the enterprise,” he said in an interview Tuesday at the show. “We’re building a Grid and Grow ecosystem for customers who are scared about grid [computing].”

Grid computing provides a way for companies to share both their computing resources and their data across disparate operating systems and all of their firms’ geographic locations.

In the future, IBM will be looking for support for the bundle of products from systems integrators and resellers, as well as ISVs (independent software vendors), King said.

IBM also announced a Ready for Grid Computing program Tuesday. The program is a validation that a given application is optimized for grid computing, according to King. Big Blue will also have The Ready for IBM GRID Computing logo to brand products that it considers fit into the Grid and Grow ecosystem, he added.

On the horizon is Grid and Grow for ERP, according to Carol Carson, director, worldwide Linux and grid marketing with IBM’s systems and technology group. Although IBM hasn’t made any announcements on this front as yet, the first enterprise resource planning software company to support the Grid and Grow bundle will likely be SAP AG, she said in an interview Tuesday at GridWorld.

Oracle Corp. had tried to hitch its wagon to the IBM grid initiative back in August, King said. However, IBM thought the database and applications vendor’s approach wasn’t fully fleshed out, so plans to make a joint announcement were shelved, he added.

Grid and Grow is only available in North America so far, according to King. “We’re looking for the right time and the right event to roll it out into other geographies,” he said. King expects IBM to launch the bundle in both Europe and Asia-Pacific before the end of the year, he added.

King said he’s pushing IBM’s Business Transformation and CIO organization (BT/CIO), which is responsible for managing the company’s global IT infrastructure to accelerate its own deployment of grid computing inside the organization. To date, IBM is running grids internally but only in point places, not as an overarching architecture. “We’re investigating how best to leverage grids so we can be seen to be eating our own cooking more,” King said.

So far, 200-plus customers around the world are running some version of IBM’s grid computing, according to King. Two financial institutions are the latest customers to embrace grid computing, he said. Higo Bank is a regional bank in Japan and UniCredit, which recently acquired Germany’s second largest bank HypoVereinsbank, is one of Italy’s largest banking groups.

Both Higo Bank and UniCredit deployed their grids prior to the introduction of Big Blue’s Grid and Grow program. King said IBM developed the program in part after its experiences working with the two companies.

Higo Bank has deployed an information grid to speed up the processing of customer loan applications, according to IBM’s Carson. The grid is based on IBM’s eServer pSeries hardware, its TotalStorage servers and tape drives, its DB2 database and its WebSphere Information Integrator software.

Using the grid approach, the bank has been able to marry information from its sales and loan departments across its servers, she said. Previously, the financial institution consolidated information between the different departments by printing out the data, generating some 1.5 million sheets of paper, Carson added. “They cut the loan time almost in half to take less than two days, increasing efficiency by about 30 percent,” she said.

“UniCredit is more like a Grid and Grow implementation,” Carson said, since the bank has implemented a similar setup to the bundle including 44 IBM blades running Red Hat’s Linux Enterprise Server version 3 with DataSynapse middleware. The organization turned to grid computing to support a new risk management application that required increased computing power to facilitate near real-time calculations, she added.

This is IBM’s second GridWorld announcement. On Monday, the company revealed it will license commercial releases of Globus middleware from open-source grid software startup Univa Corp.

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