Grid vendors look for interoperability with new consortium

Some of the IT industry’s heavyweight vendors have formed a consortium in an effort to drive the adoption of grid computing in the enterprise.

The Enterprise Grid Alliance (EGA) is looking toward developing interoperable solutions within both the public and private enterprise for grid computing. The ultimate goal is to produce specifications that will enable grid products from a gamut of vendors to work seamlessly within enterprise organizations.

The consortium defines grid computing as the connection between pools of computers, storage and networks, that enables enterprises to dynamically allocate resources based on changing business needs. Through the exploitation of technology, enterprise grids enable organizations to adapt their IT resources to their business needs.

The group will primarily be focused in the data center and with grids that are composed of proven and standard components such as: networks; application servers; databases; storage subsystems; and management frameworks, said Donald Deutsch, president, EGA and vice-president, standards strategy and architecture, Oracle Corp.

“The objective of this alliance is to encourage and accelerate the movement to an open grid environment through interoperability solutions,” Deutsch said.

“We are looking for practical, near-term benefits that resolve issues and remove barriers of adoption of enterprise grid computing,” he explained.

Specifications might be one part of the consortium’s adjectives, but the group will also test interoperability among enterprise and grid software and hardware components; perform demonstrations of interoperability; and document best practices.

Focus will be on both commercial enterprise apps including enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and business intelligence, as well as technical issues including portfolio simulation. Deutsch said the consortium will not be concerned with scientific computing or academic research.

“The EGA is about time-to-market, near-term pragmatic solutions to real problems. If another forum has a specification that addresses a need that EGA identifies, we will use that spec,” he explained.

Initial board members of the EGA include EMC Corp., Fujitsu Siemens Computers, Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp., NEC Corp., Network Appliance Inc., Oracle Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc.. The group is about 20 companies strong right now, with participation also coming from Cisco Systems Inc., and Novell Corp. Right now there is a notable absence from both IBM Corp. and Microsoft Corp., Deutsch pointed out, adding that it doesn’t mean they will not join the forum at a later date.

“We have been talking with many companies and we will be talking with more,” he said.

One analyst applauded the effort, saying it could benefit large enterprises, which typically have a mix of hardware and software in their data centres. But the magnitude of the task, and the fact that two of the industry’s biggest players — IBM and Microsoft — are not yet on board, means the alliance has its work cut out for it, said Dan Kusnetzky, vice-president of systems software research at IDC.

The work of the alliance could prove useful for customers, but it won’t be easy for a large group of vendors to agree on common standards, Kusnetzky said. What’s more, the alliance eventually will need to get IBM and Microsoft on board if it hopes to succeed because of their broad reach, he said.

While the EGA is being coined as an open, independent and vendor-neutral group, there is a multi-tiered membership scale, Deutsch explained. The highest rate of membership is US$50,000 for the sponsor group, who also have voting rights and a seat on the board of directors. Contributing members are the midpoint at US$15,000 and the lowest level of participation is from associate members, for US$5,000. Members at this level can participate and observe technical activity, but do not have voting rights.

It’s a royalty-free group and you have to pay to play, Deutsch said. “There is no controlling entity, no members for life, no board members that can’t be voted off and no veto…it’s truly a level playing filed, a one company one vote organization.”

IDC’s Kusnetzky said he’s hopeful the alliance will succeed, but noted that similar efforts in the past haven’t always been successful. Unix vendors tried half a dozen times to unite under a single banner, for example, but they never succeeded, he said.

“Things could work out perfectly, or things might not work out at all and the organization quietly goes away after a year. We’ll have to wait and see,” he noted.

-With files from IDG News Service

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