Grid vendors launch interoperability effort

IDG News Service |  Networking

Several of the IT industry's biggest vendors have formed a group called the Enterprise Grid Alliance to promote grid computing in the enterprise. Their goal is to boost the adoption of grid computing by hammering out technology specifications that allow customers to mix and match products from a variety of suppliers.

Oracle Corp., EMC Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) and Sun Microsystems Inc. are among the initial board members of the Enterprise Grid Alliance, the formation of which was announced Tuesday. Other participants include NEC Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. and Novell Corp. The alliance is open to any organization that wants to join, including customers, for a fee starting at US$5,000 per year, said Donald Deutsch, an Oracle vice president who is serving as president of the alliance.

One analyst applauded the effort, saying it could benefit large enterprises, which typically have a mix of hardware and software in their datacenters. But the magnitude of the task, and the fact that two of the industry's biggest players -- IBM Corp. and Microsoft Corp. -- are not yet on board, means the alliance has its work cut out, said Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of systems software research at IDC.

The goal is to produce a set of specifications that will allow grid products from various vendors to interoperate, and to produce test suites that will help customers identify products that are interoperable. The alliance will also study new methods of paying for hardware and software, since traditional pricing methods are hard to apply in a grid environment, Deutsch said.

Grid computing involves linking groups of computers and storage devices together in a way that lets enterprises allocate those resources dynamically as they are needed. For example, when demand for a payroll application surges at the end of the month, enterprises should be able to shift the workload from that application onto additional servers, and move it off again when the peak load has passed.

Most of the big vendors have been promoting the grid model, promising to help customers reduce IT costs by using resources more efficiently. But their products don't always interoperate, causing headaches for customers who use, for example, Oracle's database software, HP's management software and EMC's storage gear.

The work of the alliance could prove useful for customers, but it won't be easy for a large group of vendors to agree on common standards, IDC's Kusnetzky said. What's more, the alliance eventually will need to get IBM and Microsoft on board if it hopes to succeed, because of their broad reach, he said.

IBM is still deciding whether to join, an IBM spokesman said Monday, declining further comment. Microsoft was also approached, according to Deutsch, but is also undecided. The software giant declined to comment for this article.

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