The Open Grid Forum: Necessary … but Sufficient?

[Note: A revised and expanded version of this entry has appeared in GRIDtoday.]

The Global Grid Forum (GGF) and the Enterprise Grid Alliance (EGA) announced yesterday (June 26, 2006) their merger to form the Open Grid Forum. Many will regard this as a very positive development. More importantly, this is a very necessary development. Why? At this juncture, Grid Computing has minimal ability to tolerate fragmentation in standards. In fact, Grid Computing sorely needs to deliver outcomes that matter – and this will only come from focus … in standards and elsewhere.

Working for Grid software vendor Platform Computing, Inc. for about seven years, it took ‘a little distance’ for me to appreciate ‘all of this’ – i.e., and to be perfectly blunt, Grid Computing isn’t quite as big a deal as many would like it to be.

Even though it won’t make this unpleasant pill any easier to swallow, allow me to elaborate via a few anecdotal data points:

  • Despite convergence efforts such as the Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA), Web Services continues to significantly eclipse Grid Computing. And for those who’ve delved into the reeds a little deeper, the ‘evolution’ of the Open Grid Services Infrastructure (OGSI) into the Web Services Resource Framework (WSRF) serves only to amplify this perception. Extrapolating further suggests the possibility for ‘collateral damage’ – e.g., as the gap between the promise and reality of the Semantic Web decreases, and Web Services increasingly plays a facilitative role, the Semantic Grid runs the risk of being not much more than a footnote.
  • Despite their ‘validation’ of Grid Computing, through their endorsement of the Open Source Globus Toolkit, IBM markets more around virtualization these days … and virtualization (think vmWare, Xen, etc.), along with Web Services, is also proving to be a big deal.
  • With the notable exception of Platform Computing and perhaps a small handfull of others, Grid Computing startups are struggling to land customers and, frankly, survive – this is also in stark contrast to those companies that make Web Services or virtualization their business. Moreover, a ‘supply chain’ continues to gel around Web Services (e.g., just Google “Web Services”) and virtualization (e.g., PlateSpin) – a supply chain that features start ups having compelling value propositions.
  • The highest-profile demonstrations of Grid Computing run the risk of trivializing Grid Computing. It may seem harsh to paint illustrations such as the World Community Grid as technologically trivial, but let’s face it, this is not the most sophisticated demonstration of Grid Computing. Equally damaging are those clustered applications (e.g., Oracle 10g) that market themselves as ‘Grid-enabled applications’.
  • Applications can be effectively Grid-enabled by drawing on non-GGF or non-EGA standards. Scali Manage 5 provides a compelling illustration by drawing on Web Based Enterprise Management (WBEM) and Eclipse; whereas WBEM is an umbrella for a number of standards all under the auspicies of the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF), Eclipse is an implementation framework and platform available from a consortium.

I remain a Grid Computing enthusiast, but as a realistic enthusiast I believe that “Grid Computing sorely needs to deliver outcomes that matter”.

That being the case, yesterday’s creation of the Open Grid Forum is necessary, but is it sufficient?

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6 responses to “The Open Grid Forum: Necessary … but Sufficient?”

  1. Stephen Dennis says :

    Perhaps virtualization is an enabling factor for Grid.

    Virtualization lowers the cost per compute node to a matter of
    dollars instead of hundreds of dollars.

    This will encourage further proliferation of compute nodes
    which increases the necessity for Grid.

  2. Bill Bryce says :

    I agree that the Grid community spends an inordinate amount of time trying to find a need for the ‘Grid solutions’ that are created. The whole concept of Grid has been abused and no two people have the same definition for a ‘Grid’. The only huge distributed computing project I can think of that everyone knows and uses everyday is ‘Google’ – yet the google guys didn’t sit down and say – well let’s build a whole bunch of standards, then try to get people to adopt them – they went off and built the whole thing and it contains hundreds of thousands of servers that actually do useful work every day.

    So maybe ‘Grid’ is just another marketing term – and what’s happening in the real world is the web 2.0 companies are just getting on with it (like digg.com, YouOS.com and many others) and building what they need…if that means using WS* standards then so be it if the standard doesn’t exist then – make a new one.

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  4. Idetrorce says :

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
    Idetrorce

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