Spending less money on IT is a compelling business proposition
Grid computing is slowly moving out of R&D labs and providing
value for enterprises. Its growing popularity is evident with major vendors
bringing out enterprise grid solutions. Anil Patrick R talks to Amit
Zaveri, Senior Director, Server Technologies, Oracle India, to get an insight
into Oracle's take on grid computing.
Can you describe grid computing in simple terms?
Grid computing is the pooling of all IT resources into a single set of shared
services for all enterprise-computing needs. Grid computing infrastructure continually
analyses demand for resources and adjusts supply accordingly.
You dont have to worry about where your data resides or which computer
processes your request. You request information or computing power and have
it deliveredas much as you want, whenever you want. This is similar to
the way electric utilities work, in that you dont know where the generator
is or how the electric grid is wired. You just ask for electricity and get it.
Grid computing is the latest development in an evolution that earlier brought
forth advances such as distributed computing, the World Wide Web and collaborative
computing. Academic and government researchers have used it for several years
to solve large-scale problems.
What are the basic tenets that grid computing is based
Two core tenets uniquely distinguish grid computing from other styles of computing
such as mainframe, client-server or multi-tier. These are virtualisation and
With virtualisation, individual resources (such as computers, disks, application
components and information sources) are pooled together by type. These are then
made available to consumers (for example, people or software programmes) through
an abstraction. Virtualisation means breaking hard-coded connections between
providers and consumers of resources, and preparing a resource to serve a particular
need without the consumer caring how that is accomplished.
With provisioning, when consumers request resources through a virtualisation
layer, a specific resource is identified to fulfil the request and then its
allocated to the consumer. Provisioning as part of grid computing means that
the system determines how to meet the specific needs of the consumer, while
optimising performance of the system as a whole. The specific ways in which
information, application or infrastructure resources are virtualised and provisioned
are specific to the type of resource, but the basic concepts are common. Similarly,
the specific benefits derived from grid computing are particular to each type
of resource, but all share the characteristics of better quality, lower costs
and increased flexibility.
What are the advantages that will drive adoption of grid
computing in Indian organisations?
We feel that grid technology will pick up phenomenally in India because spending
less money on IT is a compelling business proposition. Grid computing, with
its emphasis on lowering the cost of IT, is attractive to companies of all sizes,
including the mid-market, which forms a significant proportion of our customers.
We envision grid computing to become a critical component of the IT infrastructure
of industries. Grids could allow the analysis of huge investment portfolios
in minutes instead of hours, accelerate drug development in the pharmaceutical
sector, and reduce design time and defects in the manufacturing sector. With
computing cycles plentiful and inexpensive, practical grid computing would open
the door to new models for compute utilities.
A much larger body of scientific and engineering applications stands to benefit
from grid computing. This includes weather forecasting, financial and mechanical
modelling, immunology, circuit simulation, aircraft design, fluid mechanics
and almost any problem that is mathematically equivalent to a flow.
Enterprise grid computing lowers costs by:
- Increasing hardware utilisation and resource sharing.
- Enabling companies to scale out incrementally with
- Reducing management and administration requirements.
Enterprise grid computing pools IT resources into a single shared service that
continually analyses demand for resources and adjusts supply accordingly. Grid
computing provides the following benefits:
- Flexibility to meet changing business needs
- Highest quality of service at the lowest cost
- Investment protection and rapid return
What do you expect the roadmap of grid computing in the
enterprise to be? Will it catch up this year?
Many vendors are leaping on to the grid computing bandwagon and adding to the
hype surrounding it. Oracle strongly advocates that a sense of reality should
Companies must realise that moving to grid computing is similar to a journey
that begins with a single step. In the future, an increasing number of companies
will join those who are already on the way to realising the immense benefits
accruing from grid computing.
Are there any generic architectures/frameworks for grid
Different vendors put forward different frameworks. With Oracle, the grid computing
model is based on what we call the Shared Everything framework.
This means that all the computing resources, be it hardware, storage or software,
work on an active-active shared basis. This allows for increased availability
and more optimal usage of resources.
What is the role that middleware has to play in enabling
Many vendors interested in grid computing have been focussed on grid resource
management as it applies to computers, storage, networking and operating systems.
Middleware vendors and application vendors have been separately pursuing the
grid computing ideals in the domain of applications, under the designation of
Web services and Service-Oriented Architecture. These two worlds are now converging,
Web services standards have emerged as the common basis to support language-independent
message delivery for all types of resources. New grid standards, defined by
the Global Grid Forum, are building on Web services standards as outlined by
W3C and OASIS.
Application resources in the grid are the business logic and process flows that
are the components of application software. These resources may be in packaged
applications or custom applications, and they may be written in any programming
language. For example, the software that takes an order from a customer and
sends an acknowledgement, the process that prints payroll cheques, and the logic
that routes a particular customer call to a particular agent are all application
Virtualisation of application resources involves publishing application components
as services for use by multiple consumers, which may be people or processes.
Orchestration is the provisioning of those services into more powerful business
flows. For example, the business flow of preparing for a new employee could
be orchestrated by combining the following processes: create a user in the HR
system, create a new e-mail account, order a computer, set up phone and voicemail,
and deliver a welcome kit.
The key is that these individual processes can be exposed as services completely
independent from each other than integrated easily. In the same way that grid
computing enables better reuse and more flexibility of IT infrastructure resources,
grid computing also treats application components as resources. Then, by publishing
and orchestrating these resources into more complex business flows, grid computing
enables greater reuse of application functionality and more flexibility in changing
and building new composite applications.
Are there any factors or mental blocks that will set back
the adoption of enterprise grids?
Some issues need to be ironed out to accelerate grid adoption. One of them is
the availability of high-speed links to permit remote users to talk to the central
database and the sunk cost in a heterogeneous environment.
For example, an enterprise with hardware running different operating systems
cannot get these boxes talking to each other in a grid as the technology stands
today due to firmware differences. Once the hardware vendors agree on and implement
certain standards in this regard, we can expect to see this resistance come
In some cases, there may exist some mental blocks pertaining to perceived loss
of control and security issues, perceptions of single point of failure and so
on. Mostly, these stem from a lack of knowledge and can be addressed through
Anil Patrick R can be reached at