Grid Alliance president on winning converts

The Enterprise Grid Alliance (EGA) was formed six months ago by several major IT vendors to help accelerate grid adoption in the enterprise. The list of members includes EMC, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, NEC, Network Appliance, Oracle and Sun Microsystems. In addition to pushing for grid adoption, the EGA is now developing standards and specifications designed to make it easier to deploy vendor products in a grid environment. EGA President Donald Deutsch, who is also vice president for standards strategy and architecture at Oracle, recently discussed the Alliance's mission and its standards work with Computerworld.

What business problem is the EGA trying to solve?

The EGA is focused on two classes of applications: commercial applications -- the guts of the organizations, which includes highly transaction-oriented applications such as ERP, CRM, general ledger and business intelligence; and a second class of applications, which, for a lack of a better term, we call technical applications. These are the things that might not be as transaction-oriented but are still fundamental to the business, such as portfolio analysis in the financial sector.

The ability of grid to handle technical applications is well known. But in terms of CRM and ERP, what kind of role will grid play?

Grid will play a fundamental role. These companies came together because their products are being applied today to address these sorts of mainline business applications. They recognized it as a business opportunity. They came together with the fundamental purpose of bootstrapping the market and accelerating the acceptance of grid in the enterprise.

So, is this a marketing organization?

That is an interesting question. Clearly, the objective of EGA is to speed up the time to market for grid technology and grow a market to the mutual benefit of the founding members. Toward that objective, EGA is focused on identifying real or perceived inhibitors to the adoption of grid technology in the enterprise and then addressing those inhibitors in whatever way is required. If this requires the development of specifications and creation of standards, then EGA will do that. If, in fact, one of the inhibitors is really a lack of knowledge in the marketplace or maybe a misunderstanding of the current state of technology, then EGA is positioned to address those through marketing.

Is EGA a marketing or standards technology group?

My answer is it's 60/40, and I'm not sure which is 60 and which is 40, because it depends on what people identify as the inhibitors.

Users are generally suspicious of marketing efforts because they have been burned by hype cycles before. Why should they pay any particular attention to this effort?

Why should they pay attention to EGA? We got a large and impressive group of vendors and increasing number of users, and we are demonstrating to you how it can be applied to your benefit. These products add up to the hardware and software stack that makes up grid.

What are the real or perceived inhibitors to grid adoption?

We charged our technical steering committee with coming up with an approach to addressing the problems. The reference model working groups will produce an ontology, a list of terminologies. Component provisioning, data provisioning, will likely produce technical specifications for standard interfaces to what are now very similar but proprietary interfaces by different vendors. Utility accounting is recognized as a hard nut to crack. Grid security is also something that remains to be seen.

There are a number of grid standards efforts, such as the Global Grid Forum, under way. Won't your effort create conflicts?

EGA does not want to invent something that we can acquire from another consortium. The bias of EGA is to (move) as quickly as possible to put in place solutions to any real or perceived inhibitors to the adoption of grid in the enterprise. If there is a solution available from another forum to a problem identified by EGA, we will work with that forum to adopt their solution. In the absence of such a solution available, if there is another forum that is able or better able to create a solution, we will establish a relationship with that organization to assist them with that.

What have you done to attract user organizations to the EGA?

We do have a few user organizations that have joined, and we are aggressively and actively recruiting others.

There are some big companies missing from your list. Can you be successful without IBM and Microsoft, for instance?

We continue to talk with Microsoft and IBM. It's their choice whether to come or not. They or others can decide whether it's an appropriate forum. EGA is a level-playing organization, and a one-company, one-vote organization. At any one payment level, any company is equal to any other.