EGA gives grid computing a pragmatic push

A first-of-its-kind reference model from the Enterprise Grid Alliance (EGA) may become another factor driving the adoption of grid computing.

This week the Enterprise Grid Alliance (EGA) unveiled the computing industry's first ever reference model for grid computing, a move that could give a gentle push to the unhurried development of grid computing at the enterprise level.

The EGA was launched in April 2004 as a vendor-neutral consortium and has grown steadily since. The group has established five individually chartered technical working groups to address specific areas including the reference model, component provisioning, data provisioning, security and utility accounting, said Paul Strong, chairman of the EGA technical steering committee.

"Grid computing has been very appealing to enterprises, but they haven't been able to leverage it," Strong said. "Some of the standards are very high, are very detailed, and very useful, but there is gap of understanding."

Jonathan Eunice, the president of Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata, said that his initial skepticism regarding the EGA has subsided in light of the reference model's publication.

"I was very concerned a year ago that this was going to be a 100% marketing organization," Eunice said. "I think that there is still an open question about how much control there is [at EGA], compared with the global grid forum, OASIS or some other organizations, but there has been good work here with the reference model and establishing the right vocabulary.

"[The reference model] is a real contribution, but you don't want to over-hype it as best thing to happen to grid; it's not code or a product you can go out and run, but it's good work for understanding grid," he said.

Understanding grid, both how it works and how it could help users, is all part of the plan at the EGA, according to Strong.

"When we talk to vendors about standard bodies, there are always slightly different names and descriptions for technologies that seem broadly similar," Strong said. "The largest value we are able to deliver is simple description clarity in what we mean by grid."

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Strong said the goal of the EGA is a pragmatic one – to provide guidance through to end technology demonstrations and a simplified 30-page reference model with which companies can learn grid computing.

Experts say that grid computing, which has already found its niche in the complex worlds of scientific research and academia, needs to overcome an aura of intimidation many administrators might feel about the technology.

"This is a long term development project. As with anything new there are challenging parameters," Eunice said. "This is not one computer or even 100, but 10,000 or more working on a job – it is a level of distribution never seen computing at that scale in any other space [aside from research and academic] in a security context."

Now that the EGA has published this reference model, however, Eunice believes grid computing can continue on its path -- albeit a slow one -- of maturation in the enterprise.

"A lot of technical pieces are coming together, like the open source Globus tool kit is maturing," Eunice said. "But it's not as if any miracles are going to occur. [That's] still a number of years off," Eunice said.

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