Shell, IBM tout grid, clustering

Shell and IBM on Wednesday touted the future of grid and cluster computing. Company officials predicted the commoditization of compute cycles and the growing use of clustering in applications such as real-time business intelligence.

Speaking at the ClusterWorld conference, the officials expressed bright futures for the two similar paradigms of clustering, which links together multiple systems, and grid, which does the same thing but is more closely associated with linking systems over a wide area.

Shell's Jacobus Burr, principal research physicist at Shell International Exploration and Production in Rijswijk, The Netherlands, said a global grid would arise to produce a marketplace for compute resources.

"Computational resources will become commodities," Burr said. "If computational resources become commodities, then you have to think about where these commodities will be bought."

"The user of these commodities is going to be the most important dominating factor in the global grid," Burr declared. He predicted the appearance of grid-enabled applications in coming months. Burr also discussed using Shell's Linux applications on clusters in a grid.

"In my view, the grid is a good candidate for infrastructure for distributed computing in our petroleum industry," he said.

IBM's Tilak Agerwala, vice president of systems at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., said real-time business intelligence would benefit from clustering. Citing IBM's On Demand strategy for flexible, e-business computing, Agerwala noted the evolution of of business intelligence and its growing importance.

"What is happening with all of this On Demand and real-time business stuff is that this business intelligence function is starting to get more integrated into the operational functions of the enterprise," Agerwala said. He also stressed importance of blade servers in clustering, saying, "I think blade servers have a real opportunity to be a disruptive thing in the marketplace."

Agerwala cited IBM's Blue Gene clustering project, intended to utilize 64,000 processors in a cluster. "At this level of scalability, you need a highly integrated communication fabric," Agerwala said.

Also at the conference, Sun Microsystems announced that MSC.Software plans to integrate the Sun ONE Grid Engine softwareinto its enterprise systems and high performance computing product portfolio. MSC.Software plans to market and support Sun's platform to help its manufacturing customers reduce the time and costs associated with product development, Sun said.

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