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Tech Insight: The Grid engine under the hood

By Tertius Bezuidenhout

Picture this. You drive past an office building on a workday. Outside, there’s a parking lot full of vehicles, most just sitting there, idle and unused for up to eight hours. And inside? There’s a great many computers also sitting idly on desks, running screen savers and flying toasters.

Isn’t this a huge waste of engineering, design and manufacturing effort? Wouldn’t it make more sense to make better use of the motor vehicles’ idle time, to share them among several users in some way, so they’re not just taking up space?

The same applies to computing resources. And when workstations, desktops, web and e-mail servers are idle – and they are for at least part of any 24-hour period – they’re also producing exactly zero percent ROI (return on investment).

However, unlike motor vehicles, there’s a solution for sharing your company’s compute resources. It’s called Grid Computing – and it allows you to put your idle resources to work.

Conceptually, a grid is quite simple: it’s a collection of computing resources that performs tasks. By pooling federated assets, a grid provides a single point of access to powerful distributed resources.

Underneath the hood, a grid consists of a layered architecture. Resource management loads the grid. Infrastructure software links the grid. System management monitors the grid. And portals enable access to the grid.

The grid is the key to getting work done faster and with higher capacity and quality. It gives organisations access to untapped resources.

Indeed, the power of the grid lies in its ability to provide a resource-rich environment, which maximises the available power of the local network to boost personal and corporate productivity while reducing time to market and increasing ROI.

Sun Microsystems estimates that Grid Computing will grow 300% by next year.

How hard is it to build a grid? Sony Devices Europe created a grid in just two days. How big can grids get? Ford Motor Company employs 1000 CPUs for MCAE (Mechanical Computer Aided Engineering) tasks.

So, while the Net provides connectivity and access to information, Grid Computing goes further: it enables universal computing in a way that will transform communication and collaboration.

Tertius Bezuidenhout is national SE manager at Sun Microsystems South Africa, the provider of industrial-strength hardware, software and services for the Internet infrastructure.

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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