GRIDWORLD - Standards adoption key to grid growth

Von Patrick Thibodeau

Moving grid computing out of the technical and scientific realm and into mainstream business use is going to require development work by vendors as well as the adoption of standards, IT managers and analysts said at the GridWorld conference in Boston.

For instance, Darren Pulsipher, IT director at XanGo LLC, a dietary supplement maker in Lehi, Utah, sees the potential for grid in his business processes but wonders whether vendors will adhere to standards such as the Global Grid Forum"s emerging Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA) for Web services.

"How many vendors will support the OGSA standard when it comes out?" said Pulsipher, who believes he will get better value from vendors who adhere to a standard. "I want to be able to swap vendors in and out so I can get more competitive pricing."

Many scientific and research applications running on grids today are custom-written and have been adapted to grid computing by utilizing the open-standards-based Globus Alliance Toolkit. Users may also be running technical applications developed by independent software vendors (ISV) adapted for the grid.

But a dearth of business applications is available, and users say broader grid adoption will take an effort by ISVs to include grid capabilities in their applications.

Grid adoption "is really driven by the application," said John Hurley, senior manager for distributed software and systems integration at The Boeing Co. "We just haven"t focused our attention on these solutions."

Products are beginning to arrive. This week, Cary, N.C.-based SAS Institute Inc. said its core product -- SAS9 enterprise intelligence software, a business intelligence, data mining and integration tool -- now includes grid capabilities developed by Platform Computing Inc. to improve resource utilization.

Users often design IT resource needs around peak usage. But with the capabilities inherent in grids, they will be able to save on costs by utilizing compute resources elsewhere, said Cheryl Doninger, research and development director at SAS.

The core of Platform"s strategy is to grid-enable ISVs, said company officials. Another vendor that"s also trying to improve ISV offerings is Sun Microsystems Inc., which this week offered a program for ISVs to adapt their products to a grid infrastructure. Its Sun Grid Readiness Offer gives them access to software and hardware for adapting applications as well as developing new services.

Sun sees itself as an infrastructure provider for vendors that develop services for tapping into its grid computing facilities, and software vendors will be able to tap into the nearly 10,000 CPUs available in four centers located in New Jersey, Virginia, London and Scotland, officials said.

"Grids are an architecture in search of applications," said Joe Clabby, an analyst at Boston-based Summit Strategies, adding that he is now seeing ISVs working with grid middleware providers to develop applications.

GridWorld, which ended Wednesday, is sponsored by IDG and the Global Grid Forum.