Grid project could net Web services tools

Leading participants in the development of geographically distributed "grid" computing projects are bolstering security and other protocols necessary to deliver Web services atop grid networks.

Set for completion this year, work being done by the Globus Project, a grid computing research and development community, will allow commercial grids to offer their computing and data resources as Web services and potentially lower the barrier to its entry to high-end computing.

Globus will add tools to its Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA) that deliver tighter integration with Web services technologies, database support and integration with Java 2 Enterprise Edition, according to Globus. Vendors such as IBM, Sun Microsystems Inc., Platform Computing Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Compaq Computer Corp. will be incorporating the OGSA work into products this year and next, according to sources familiar with the plans.

Meanwhile, IBM and Globus are expected to propose a number of distributed protocols centered around security, authentication, identification and collaboration at the Global Grid Forum in Toronto later this month, according to Irving Wladawsky-Berger, IBM's vice president of technology and strategy. Grid computing start-up Avaki Corp. in Cambridge, Mass., also plans to propose a global naming specification.

IBM is also at work on tool kits that will allow AIX and Linux users to "grid-enable" their applications, IBM officials said last week.

The efforts to secure the technology foundation of grids is geared at making them an environment for deploying Web services.

"From a business perspective, OGSA will permit the creation of composite Web services that link sites that are in different administrative domains or companies," said Bob Marcus, director of emerging technology strategies and the former chief technology officer of Boulder, Colo.-based Rogue Wave Software Inc. "Some of the applications include on-demand computational resources, data analysis across multiple sites, collaborative engineering across companies and real-time supply chain integration."

Before grid-based Web services are ready for the enterprise, the OGSA technology "requires the authentication and authorization of a user across sites. There must also be the ability to coordinate resources and data transfer among sites to implement the Web service," said Marcus.

Grid-based Web services projects are already in the works. IBM recently announced a massive computing grid centered at the University of Pennsylvania that will connect the servers and databases of hospitals around the world to share information on mammogram procedures and research (see story). As the Globus tools become available, IBM plans to make it possible for participating hospitals to have Web service access to the data available on the grid without having to invest in the infrastructure.

However, IBM's Dan Powers, vice president of Linux Solutions, cautions that grid computing's road to broad commercial acceptance will be a matter of gradual evolution similar to that of Linux.

"Where you see [grid] application work starting to develop is in the research communities and then among those companies that are tied to research such as medical, pharmaceutical and biotech companies,'' said Powers.

In his LinuxWorld keynote this week William Zeitler, senior vice president and group executive of the server group at IBM, said he expects most companies to begin grid projects internally before they venture outside their own four walls with such projects. "I think you will see many grid projects start internally and be run by [Internet service providers]," he said.

Ultimately, companies offering grid-based Web services will tap new revenue streams as valuable data created on a grid system becomes information that can be sold via Web services to partners or subscribers, said Wolfgang Gentzsch, director of group computing at Sun.

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This story, "Grid project could net Web services tools" was originally published by InfoWorld.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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