Grids at forefront of cluster show

Globus, Oracle officials stress new trend

ClusterWorld Conference & Expo might as well have been dubbed GridWorld, given the tenor of discussions at the San Jose, Calif., event last week. Keynote speeches from grid expert Ian Foster and Andrew Mendelsohn, senior vice president of database and server technologies at Oracle, capped the event by placing grid computing center stage.

Grids, a hot topic as of late, link multiple distributed systems together to apportion compute cycles where needed in a network. Clusters hook systems together in perhaps a less dramatic fashion than do the large-scale linkages of grids.

Foster -- a leader of the Globus Alliance, which has developed the open source Globus Toolkit for grids -- entertained the notion that grids could result in markets for compute cycles. “One direction in which grid could go would be if we develop a market for computational resources,” he said, adding, however, that the requirements and possibilities of such a market remain unclear.

In an interview after his speech, Mendelsohn revealed that Oracle expects a June uptick in user upgrades to its Oracle Database 10g platform, which puts a focus on grid computing. “Our customers take a couple of months [to upgrade],” he said.

Also at the event, an SuSE official stressed the need for a Linux variant for clusters. "There is no mainstream Linux distribution that addresses the cluster market head on, and I want SuSE to be the first to do that," said Timothy Beloney, original electronics manufacturer account developer at SuSE.

A Sun Microsystems official interviewed at the show said an upcoming version of Java would enable multitasking within a JVM (Java virtual machine).

Scheduled for beta release this fall and for general availability in 2005, J2SE (Java 2 Standard Edition) 1.6 is slated to feature an “isolates” function to boost application-sharing in the JVM, according to Murali Kaundinya, senior Java architect of the software services division at Sun.

The isolates capability would enable isolated entities to perform localized computation without requiring a second JVM, thus enabling multitasking within the JVM, Kaundinya said.

Robert McMillan, IDG News Service, contributed to this article.