Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Grid BOF at JavaOne

I'm here at JavaOne sitting on a panel for a BOF on the Grid; Building Tomorrow's Grid. Well that was last night (9:30pm, but it was surprisingly well attended, with standing room only) and I think it went very well. There was a lot of audience participation and it definitely seemed like there was a lot of interest in grid (small 'g') computing. Overall the panel pretty much agreed with one another; the main exception was when it came to the subject of Java's role in the grid (small 'g' again): the panel split down the middle, with Richard Nicholson and Dan Hushon saying the JINI is the way forward, whilst Greg and I disagreeing. As Greg pointed out, it's unrealistic to assume that the world will be purely Java, and the bridging/wrapping approach to embedding non-Java services into Jini seems like a hack if the real answer is to simply use the right tool (aka language) for the right job.

During our individual presentations at the start of the session, we were asked to answer the following questions and I think my answers were similar to those of the rest of the panel:

(i) What is grid computing? I made the distinction between grid (small 'g') and Grid/GRID computing. I think grid has been around for many years and people simply haven't collected all of these massively parallel and distributed applications under a single categorisation. Take a look at SETI@home for example. I remember installing this when it first came out back in the early 1990's. The statistics for it today are astonishing: 3 million computers, 14 Teraflops average, 500000 years of processing power in 18 months - the equivalent of several supercomputers. It's got to be one of the most successful grids around. GRID on the other hand, is IMO an effort to try to standardise on practices, patterns and infrastructure in building grids: a great idea when you consider the number of grid toolkits that are around.

(ii) What problem does it solve? Pretty simple - not many organisations can afford supercomputers, but there are a lot of massively parallel applications out there and many computers that simply aren't used most of the time. (One member of the audience came up to me afterwards and said that his company is thinking about building a grid to use the power of 14000 machines that they've got, which are idle 40% of the time.) Using someone elses resources to do your work seems like a good idea - it's cost effective for a start!

(iii) Where is it on the hype scale? grid (small 'g') has been around for many years and most certainly isn't hype. Compared to that, GRID is more hype than reality but that's just a timing thing.

Overall I think it was a great BOF and I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people turned out. Now it's off for a book signing and definitely some session tracks.

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