25 July 2002 Systems and software giant IBM has released software to support its grid computing initiative. The move, claims IBM, is an important step on the long road to shift grid computing out of scientific laboratories and into corporate IT environments.
Grid computing aims to provide computing resources on demand, like a utility. The idea is that computers are linked together over the Internet to provide computing resources – such as storage, databases, or applications – to users on demand.
IBM’s new software, Grid Toolbox for the open-source Linux and AIX operating systems, will help developers design applications to use computing resources on a grid. This toolbox is available immediately for free, either in CD format or as a download. The software includes version two of the grid computing Globus Toolkit, along with a set of installation scripts specifically designed for IBM’s family of servers. It also incorporates security tools. The Globus Project is an open-source source development group that aims to provide the necessary middleware for grid computing.
IBM claims that it is already selling high-end servers to organisations interested in grid deployments. One such organisation is the Research Councils UK, which will build a so-called “supercomputer”, using a cluster of IBM’s P690 servers. The new supercomputer is the key component of an IT infractructure, called the Grid, that aims to provide scientific researchers in the UK with access to a shared computing speed of 6.7 teraflops (6.7 trillion operations per second).
Despite the release of IBM’s grid computing software, analysts argue it will be several years before grid computing initiatives enter commercial IT environments. Far too many issues including technical specifications for security need to be resolved before companies in sectors such as banking start sharing computer resources. Contractual issues surrounding payment for services and ownership of hardware will also have to be addressed.
IBM is not the only vendor targeting the grid computing market. Systems and software giants Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard are also touting their own grid computing initiatives.