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Using Web Services To Tap Into Computing Power

A next-generation Internet prototype uses Web services to decentralize control of the network's bandwidth for complex distributed computing tasks.

Canadian researchers are building a next-generation Internet prototype that uses Web services to decentralize control of the network's bandwidth for complex distributed computing tasks. Web services will facilitate use of the Internet for large-scale grid-computing applications such as particle physics, human genome, and weather-modeling experiments.

While largely the domain of the scientific world, grid computing is expected to find its way into complex business-processing chores such as engineering simulation and financial modeling. In grid computing, processing power and data storage are shared across a network. Last month, IBM and Sun Microsystems said grid computing is a critical component of their Web-services strategies for tapping computing resources and data on demand.

The CA*net4 project, managed by the government-funded Canarie Inc. research organization in Ottawa, is one of several next-generation Internet projects around the world, including the Internet 2 project in the United States. The idea behind CA*net4 is that bandwidth will be controlled by users who tap into computing power across the network for experiments, rather than by centralized organizations such as carriers. Individuals or organizations will own specific wavelengths of bandwidth they can use, sell, or trade based on their needs.

Bandwidth on demand isn't a new concept. Telecommunications carriers have been promising this to business customers for decades. "We're going to give the end user control of the network," says Bill St. Arnaud, Canarie's network projects senior director. Canarie already has an operational prototype based on a modified version of Border Gateway protocols that help users alter the network's topology such as exchanging bandwidth or altering message routes. But it will likely be years before network equipment vendors such as Cisco Systems and Nortel Networks Ltd. build those protocols into their products, St. Arnaud says. And the prototype doesn't provide a mechanism for bandwidth owners to "advertise" excess network bandwidth.

That's where Web services come in. Canarie is building its prototype incorporating Web-services protocols, specifically XML, the Simple Object Access Protocol, and the Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration directory. Web services will provide a standard way for bandwidth owners to advertise when they have bandwidth to sell or swap, or for a researcher to find bandwidth available for rent, St. Arnaud says.

Canarie plans to deploy a prototype next month, and researchers are expected to begin using it when CA*net4 launches in the fall.

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