Slow Going On The Global Grid

The dream of global grid computing, as exemplified by the Globus Toolkit, hasn't caught on with most businesses. But fusing web-services standards with grid-computing protocols could begin to change that.

Aaron Ricadela, Contributor

February 19, 2005

3 Min Read

Nor has Globus retained support from some big tech vendors. Absent from the Globus Consortium are Microsoft, whose grid plans amount to one big question mark, and Oracle, which trots out the word "grid" every time it talks about clustering its databases but hasn't built Globus compatibility into its products. "We need to see whether this thing's stabilized enough to ship it to our enterprise customers," says Bob Thome, an Oracle senior distributed database manager. Microsoft's research department granted $1 million to the Globus Project three years ago to try to find a way to port the software to Windows. But that project is considered dead. "I don't need the Globus Toolkit to do high-performance computing clusters," says Charles Fitzgerald, a Microsoft general manager for business strategy.

Globus runs with limited capabilities on Windows, "a shortcoming that needs to be addressed," says Globus' Foster. The lack of a Windows version means some software vendors are less willing to rewrite code to run on a grid. Univa has to develop a version of the Globus Toolkit for Windows, says William Fellows, an analyst at the 451 Group. "If they don't do it, they're going to fail."

There are some clues to Microsoft's intentions. Microsoft Research has funded University of Virginia's Humphrey to develop WSRF.Net, which lets users share data and machines in a .Net environment. The next release of Windows may include technology to make it easier to build grids--some of which may overlap with what's coming in Globus. "Microsoft is absolutely very interested in grid," Humphrey says. But it's "not sure where GT4 is going and not sure about WSRF."

Despite such reservations, Foster says the investments his group has procured from tech's table setters should wake more IT managers to grid's potential. "There's a reason why they're spending that money," he says. Grid computing may not be the computer industry's Holy Grail yet, but soon business-technology execs may not need to make a leap of faith to embrace it.

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