Avaki, Kontiki advance grids

Hoping to broaden the appeal of grid computing outside the confines of the research and academic markets, Avaki Corp. on Monday rolled out what it believes is the first Java-based data grid software for enterprise-class IT environments. Kontiki Inc., for its part, on Monday released a grid server that brings its content delivery system into the server realm, whereas previously it was only available for PCs.

Avaki, based in Cambridge, Mass., ported its Data Grid 3.0 to J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition), and designed the software to ease data access along with what company officials feel is a marked improvement in reducing the complexity and cost of integrating infrastructure products. The company will be targeting the product at several commercial markets including the life sciences, manufacturing and oil and gas, officials said.

"By re-implementing Data Grid in J2EE, it is more readily deployable within an existing IT infrastructure. It can then be extended and connected using standard J2EE interfaces even though the default capability requires no programming. If an application, for instance, has asynchronous message queuing, they can use a standard interface to plug that together," said TimYeaton, Avaki's president.

Some industry observers think the new version has the potential to tear down the barriers that prevent the transparent flow of data.

"By providing "data grid" technology, we think Avaki is addressing a number of important requirements for future computing environments. We see data grids as potentially fulfilling users' requirements in such areas as improving the transparency of access to data and compute resources, developing collaborative computing environments, and increasing data consistency and availability," said Debra Goldfarb, group vice president, worldwide systems and servers, at IDC, a market research firm based in Framingham, Ma.

Since the product is software-based, Avaki officials believe users can cut costs because it needs less storage and administration and can be deployed more quickly. And by taking out the need for replication infrastructures and the data management traditionally associated with it, the product can immediately reduce complexity through a more consistent control mechanism, company officials said.

"I think this software will speed up daily work by providing a single point of entry to distributed data through standard network protocols. We tend to use many systems that provide files as output, so this capability will have a major impact on our research. Developers find Avaki's architecture straightforward and intuitive," said Brian Gilman, group leader medical and population genetics department, Whitehead Institute for Genomic Research.

The 3.0 version of the product requires less in the way of hardware and software investment, according to Yeaton, because it creates a federated data service that serves up data from existing sources and applications from a wide area while leaving the data in its place.

"One of the innovations to this release is the notion of this grid of grids where you can have multiple grids in place across organizations and then federate them. You can have part of the grid's structure be like an object directory structure and literally splice it into another organizations grid," said Phillip Werner, vice president of product development for Avaki. "For users, that is a completely transparent process. They have no idea where the data is coming from, nor should they."

Extending the grid concept to media delivery, Kontiki on Monday introduced Grid Delivery Server software designed to tap unused storage space on existing servers to help push video and large documents around corporate networks.

The Grid Server software expands Kontiki's existing DMS (Delivery Management System) beyond networked PCs to include servers, thereby bolstering network scalability and allowing enterprises to build out delivery grids using clients and servers, according to Mark Szelenyi, director of enterprise marketing at Kontiki, based in Sunnyvale, Calif.

"By adding servers to the grid we are further enhancing the use of the network resources that can participate in delivery," Szelenyi said. "Up until this point just client resources could participate. Now I can also add server resources to participate in the overall delivery."

Similar to the larger grid computing movement aimed at leveraging shared processing power, Kontiki's Grid Delivery effort attempts to tap shared network bandwidth and storage resources to optimize existing networks for rich media and video-on-demand.

"In our view it is very related to grid computing but targeted at a very specific purpose, which is for [rich media] delivery," he said.

In addition, the Grid Delivery Server software is designed to give IT departments more control over how rich media and video are delivered in the enterprise, offering the ability to choose the speed of delivery and class of service and set caps on demand at predetermined levels.

Because Kontiki's grid approach to rich media delivery leverages existing infrastructure and offers a high degree of flexibility in deployment, it is an attractive option in the current economic climate, according to Greg Howard, principal analyst and founder of the HTRC Group in San Andreas, Calif.

"It lowers the cost barriers to using video-on-demand and rich media in the enterprise," Howard said.

The Kontiki Grid Delivery Server will be included as part of the DMS, priced per seat.

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