IBM to provide direct support for grid computing users

As the promise and possibilities of grid computing continue to unfold for business, research and science, fledgling users of the technology will now have a new partner to help them get started.

IBM today announced that it will provide boxed software and support for the open-source grid computing Globus Toolkit 2.0, which lets users create software links that will allow existing applications to work over a grid of computers locally or around the world.

Tom Hawk, IBM's general manager of grid computing, said IBM will provide the boxed open-source software for free for Linux or IBM AIX operating systems and will provide full help desk support at fees comparable to other IBM software offerings.

By offering support for Globus directly to users, IBM is pursuing a strategy similar to its offerings for Linux, Hawk said.

"Many customers are leery of open-source software" because it's free and traditionally offers no direct means of support. But by getting behind the open-source Globus grid tool kit, IBM is adding its credibility and service to give potential users more confidence to try the grid tools to see how they can influence their own IT projects, he said.

IBM made the announcement today at the Global Grid Forum in Edinburgh, where researchers and users have been pushing ahead to further develop and refine the grid technologies.

The Globus Toolkit 2.0 is the latest result of the Globus Project, a research and development effort begun in 1996 to advance the idea of connecting massive amounts of computing power together around the globe for uses ranging from science to medicine to business. By using the grid tools in the software tool kit, users can use prewritten interfaces to modify their software applications for use on a grid, starting out small and building up to larger uses to prove the technology for their own work. Almost 1,000 participants are at the forum, which is a governing body working on the development and adoption of standards for grid computing.

Several large hardware vendors, including IBM, Sun Microsystems Inc. and Compaq Computer Corp., which is now part of Hewlett-Packard Co., have been working for some time on grid technologies to provide more IT alternatives for customers (see story).

IBM is providing the Globus Toolkit 2.0 on CDs or through downloads from the Globus Web site. When the next version of the software, Globus Toolkit 3.0, is released by early next year, IBM will provide a migration path for existing users and continued support, Hawk said. The next version will be more standards-based, with an Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA) that will be much more open than the existing version. The OGSA-compliant version will aggregate the capabilities of grid software from other vendors including Sun, Platform Computing Inc. and Avaki Corp., so they'll be compatible throughout the grids that are developed.

Grid computing is already being used in medical and scientific projects, but it's also getting attention from manufacturers, retailers, financial services companies and other prospective users, Hawk said.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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