Big Blue's big picture strategy for grid

BOSTON -- This week at the GridWorld conference in Boston, IBM announced new customers and new partners for its grid computing strategy. New partners include Elmhurst, Ill.-based Univa Corp., a grid middleware management startup, and Absoft Corp., a Rochester, Minn.-based software company that provides development tools for high performance computing applications. The new customers, Japan-based Higo Bank and Italy-based UniCredit, are both financial services customers. sat down with IBM's Ken King, vice president of grid computing, to talk about IBM's vision for grid.

It seems like you've targeted the financial and medical sectors with your grid offerings. Can you talk about what the benefit is in taking new technologies to vertical markets?
There is a benefit in that they're trying to address specific industry pain points.

That said, if you look at some of the vendors like SAP and Seibel, we're starting to see the horizontal markets with supply chain, ERP [enterprise resource planning] and CRM [customer relationship management] vendors looking at how to leverage grid to get better value for their applications.

But we started with vertical markets because many of the applications like simulation and risk modeling applications -- those fit grid better in the early days when you think about typical number-crunching batch applications -- were the low-hanging fruit for that.

Now that we're moving into 2006-2007, we're seeing a lot more focus from the horizontal vendors as more of these standards get adopted. That's going to motivate these horizontal vendors to leverage grid more effectively. In order for customers to buy into a platform, there needs to be a wide offering of applications. Last year IBM pledged $125 million to drive new applications on the iSeries. Is there something similar going on with grid?
There is investment to drive that. I'm not going to share a number because we're still working through our budget for next year. But there is an investment to drive that type of co-marketing to help build out that ecosystem. Heterogeneous grid computing seems to depend a lot on virtualization. Cisco announced last week that they were going to virtualize the network and boost grid computing. Do you see this as a competitive or complementary technology?
It's complementary. Virtualizing the network is a key element of enabling grid solutions to be as effective and efficient as possible to get the performance you need out of them. We have relationships with Cisco and we're looking at how to improve some of those around grid. What's the relationship between a service-oriented architecture (SOA) and grid?
It's huge. When you think about properly enabling SOA -- the componentization of applications into services -- to integrate that effectively across business processes, you've got to have a dynamic underlying infrastructure to support that. We call that a service-oriented infrastructure [SOI]. Grid and virtualization are key underpinning technologies that help create that service-oriented infrastructure supports SOA.

With SOA, you have a modularized set of components working together. With a monolithic application, what does it take to make it run effectively in a grid environment? You've got to parallelize that application and that takes a lot of work.

If you've already got the services componentized and modularized, you want to implement them across your infrastructure to get the most performance. Grid and virtualization are the perfect underpinnings to do that. Now you can take scheduling and provisioning software to take services to run them wherever it makes sense to run them, because they're already in the kind of structure that makes them easy to run on a grid.

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My view is that you can make an SOA much more effective by having an SOI underneath it. And the way to create SOI is through grid and virtualization technologies. Is grid computing going to change the data center footprint?
Hardware is going to be more adaptive, but it's not going to change the footprint.

You'll find more hardware [taking on qualities] of the zSeries, bringing partitions in and out where they're needed. We can do processing in a more on-demand, dynamic way. But I don't think it's going to physically change the hardware.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Matt Stansberry, News Editor

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