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Riding the Grid Wave

Wolfgang Gentzsch says grids are coming in three waves

By Gary Anthes
December 6, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Wolfgang Gentzsch says grid computing will come in three waves. The first, well under way, primarily involves the academic research community. The second, just beginning, brings in corporations as users. The third, still some years off, will add individual consumers to the grid. At that point, the Internet will be "the grid," says Gentzsch, managing director of grid computing and networking services at MCNC Inc. A preview of the grid can be glimpsed in the National LambdaRail testbed network, for which MCNC will serve as a technical support center. Gentzsch recently told Computerworld's Gary H. Anthes what it will take to ride the waves.
What's moving us into the second, corporate, wave of grid computing? The IT vendors have their grid story in place -- IBM, Sun, Oracle and the others -- for the next generation of products that they want to ship and make money with. But there's no money in research grids, and consumer grids are far out. So the current interest is in the enterprise grid.
But are users interested? Grid technology can improve equipment utilization from 30% on average to something like 70% to 80%. So the interest of end-user companies has grown dramatically. Driven by the benefits -- easy access, sharing of resources, easy fail-over and dramatically improving productivity -- within the near future companies will reduce cost and complexity [with grids].
Our products and systems are getting more and more complex, and the infrastructure is getting more complex. Scaling the infrastructure means scaling the people. But if you have a grid in place, you can handle a factor-of-10 increase in resources with the same people.
How pervasive will grids be in corporations in, say, five years? Companies in the life sciences and the financial sector are already advanced today in using local grid technology. In about five years, many of the Fortune 500 companies will be still growing globally, having subsidiaries all over the world, and within these subsidiaries they have IT equipment that may be empty because it's night. So now in a global enterprise grid, a company in Europe, for example, might want to send jobs to America, where people are still sleeping.

Wolfgang Gentzsch of MCNC Inc.
Wolfgang Gentzsch of MCNC Inc.
Life sciences and financial companies tend to use grids for scientific applications and modeling. What about mainstream transaction-processing apps? You can't really easily send independent transactions over the Internet. Sending a transaction to a remote server takes far too much overhead, so you send a whole application to a transaction server. You have several transaction systems distributed. It's a grid


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