IBM wants to grid Hong Kong

The roadmap of Hong Kong's IT future is gridded, said Cordelia Chung, general manager for IBM China/Hong Kong Ltd., at a press conference last week to announce their strategic technology roadmap that, claimed the firm, will help "drive Hong Kong's future success as the most globalized and prosperous city in Asia."

Chung called for Hong Kong organizations -- public and private, large and small -- to get behind IBM's vision of Community Computing for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, or risk losing out to more proactive countries. The Community Computing concept is an extension of grid computing, which treats computing power much as a utility similar to electricity or water, a metaphor that has become popular with vendors -- like IBM -- dedicated to open standards and common protocols.

Grid computing has been in use in the academic world for years, not only in the West, but in countries like China, India, Japan and the U.K., said Chung. "Community Computing is an innovation," said Chung, "not an invention."

However, to extend grid computing to the private sector will involve costing scenarios and of course, agreed-upon open standards. "All areas of (Hong Kong) society have a role to play," declared Chung, "The government, SMEs, large corporations, universities and education."

"I believe Hong Kong already has the key essentials in place," she added. "Technology here is already mature (and) government and institutions must grasp it and act on it." She likened the grid concept to an enhanced version of an interlinked computer network already well known, the Internet.

"Taking the lessons we learned from integrating millions of networks into a single meganetwork -- the Internet -- we can now move to the next level, turning the Internet in Hong Kong into a single, giant computing platform known simply as The Grid," said IBM Hong Kong in a statement. "Computing power, databases and applications will connect to The Grid using open and well-accepted standards, and because these standards are open and freely available, any other applications will be able to connect and share not only information, but workflow and business processes as well."

IBM's vision for grid computing in Hong Kong takes the form of a Community Computing model that aims at reducing future IT investment costs while simultaneously enhancing efficiency through more rational distribution of powerful computing resources. "Community Computing provides a breakthrough to all sectors of the society, and it is especially beneficial to SMEs (small and medium-size enterprises)," said IBM Hong Kong/China in a statement on its Web site. "With Community Computing, IT becomes an expense similar to water, gas or electricity rather than a capital investment. SMEs can focus their precious capital on core business activities and start leveraging the linked resources of other SMEs to create highly efficient clusters within the value chain. Again, through Community Computing approaches, Mainland China will become an important source for the SMEs, not only for manufacturing and supply, but as a way to lower their costs of operation through outsourcing low-value services."

Chung added that other regions could leapfrog Hong Kong in this regard. According to Web site gridcomputingplanet.com, grid projects in China over the next few years include: the Ministry of Science and Technology 863 Grid Project (which will focus on science, manufacturing, the service industry, and the environment and resource sectors); the "Next Internet" Project led by the Chinese NSF that will upgrade network infrastructure and include basic research in computing, data and access grids; the Chinese Academy of Sciences e-Science Grid; and the Beijing City Manufacturing Grid.

Chung added that while grid computing is making headway in other countries, Hong Kong has an advantage via its healthy broadband penetration rate. "Broadband is the 'last mile'," noted Chung.

"But if Hong Kong doesn't adopt Community Computing," said Chung, "we become a follower and not a leader."

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