Experts: Grid Computing Overhyped

Speaking with other experrts at an industry conference, IBM executive Rod Smith advocates a more realistic view of grid computing technologies.

T.C. Doyle, Contributor

October 20, 2004

3 Min Read

With his corporate communications specialist cringing off stage, Rod Smith of IBM said what many in the IT business have come to suspect—that grid computing is another one of the industry's overhyped propositions.

Speaking at Monday's keynote session at the XChange Tech Innovators conference in San Diego, Smith, vice president of emerging technology at the world's largest computing company, responded crisply and succinctly to a direct question about what he considered to be the industry's most overhyped technology. What made his comments so ironic is that his employer has planned for multibillion-dollar investments in grid and on-demand computing.

While controversial, Smith won over the audience with a rational vision of what is real and what is not in terms of grid today. His thoughts were echoed by Larry Singer, a senior vice president and technology visionary at Sun Microsystems, who acknowledged that some in the industry have moved forward with grid technology, either developing or deploying it, without fully understanding the innards or capabilities of the technology.

"Scaled grid makes sense," he said, comically adding that "sometimes it doesn't."

Smith and Singer were just two leading innovation experts brought together by VARBusiness editors Alexander Wolfe and Carolyn April to debate, discuss and dissect some of the latest innovations and ideas in IT. They were joined on stage by Michael Robertson, CEO of Linspire; Bill Johnson, vice president of research and development with HP's ProCurve division; Mark Iwanowski, senior vice president of global information technologies at Oracle; and Dwain Kinghorn, CTO of Altiris.

Taking questions from both members of the XChange conference audience and from April and Wolfe directly, the panel of experts covered a variety of topics, including Linux, handheld computing devices, fledgling industry standards, storage and security. More than any other question, the one about which technology is the most overhyped in the business today seemed to bring out the most creativity—if not competitiveness—in the market.

Robertson, for example, drew howls of laughter when he said that there was a tie among overhyped innovations between mobile video and Microsoft's promising, albeit delayed and downscaled, Longhorn operating system software upgrade. "You can't even get e-mail reliably, so video on phone?" he said. "Gimme a break!"

Kinghorn agreed that Microsoft's Longhorn project deserved that label. "There's already some paralysis that [is] happening, yet Microsoft is taking out file system things, etc.," he said. "Microsoft has the ability to paralyze the market in the near term."

What other technologies have been promoted above and beyond what they perhaps deserve today? Johnson pointed to the new Internet standard IPv6. "The real challenge, the promise it brings around security and enhanced management, are there. But we've learned how to work around them with version 4. No end user will benefit from going to the next version," he said.

Iwanowski took some issue with the notion that grid computing is overhyped, pointing out successfully that, "If you go into our data centers, we have an acre-and-a-half of on-demand [computing technology in a] grid environment." He went on to say that grid was a classic, emerging technology that needed to be better understood.

Fair enough, thought this reporter, who noted that to certain companies, their promising innovations that are not yet selling are referred to as "emerging technologies," but are considered overhyped phenomena when they come from another company.

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