Sunday, October 02, 2005

Clusters, Grids And Virtual Organizations

In effect, grids are distributed collections of servers that can be assigned to work on different parts of the same task. Unlike the servers in clusters, which are typically dedicated to a particular application or set of applications, the servers in a grid may be allocated to perform different applications, or parts of applications, at different times of the day. Not surprisingly, there are many more clusters in use today than there are grids.

In grid terminology, the group of processors, memory, and storage that forms a grid is also called a virtual organization (VO). Each VO has policies describing how resources are discovered, scheduled, secured and paid for. Grid resource managers implement and enforce these policies. Applications and resources that have the software and interfaces to participate in the VO are called grid-aware or grid-enabled.

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The operational trade-off with a grid is taking on another layer of management in order to make better use of your computing Latest News about computing resources. There is no rule of thumb for grid cost savings yet, but the Enterprise Grid Alliance (EGA) and other grid proponents are working on ROI studies to demonstrate that grids can increase server utilization and reduce the total number of servers.

Different vendors and consortia have different names for grid resource managers, but their functionality is similar: The servers and other resources tell the resource manager how much processing, memory or storage they have available and the workload characteristics that they can handle. Then the resource manager allocates resources to applications that request them. The grid standards-setting body, the Global Grid Forum (GGF), has done much research in this area, and a set ofopen source Latest News about open source tools is available from the grid community Globus Alliance.

Truly the technology is tricky, but a dedicated I.T. organization that sees the grid deployment as strategic should succeed. As with all I.T. initiatives, the keys are simple, but not easy -- a clear strategic vision, policy and process.

Big vendors like EMC Latest News about EMC, HP, IBM Latest News about IBM, Microsoft Latest News about Microsoft, Oracle Latest News about Oracle and Sun are in the forefront of promoting grid technology, but early adopters also are using software from companies such as United Devices and Platform for simpler grid applications: to steal unused processing power from desktop PCs to process batch jobs.

Think about how much time you spend in meetings or on the phone, when your PC could be doing other jobs. The simple grid concept is appealing, but there are some drawbacks, not the least of which are security Latest News about Security and stability concerns. And, as always, standards and interoperability represent a double-edged sword: Industry leaders must work for standards, but they also want to maintain proprietary product differentiators.

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