Interview: The changing politics of grid

Platform Computing's Ian Baird notes possible emergence of markets for compute cycles

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But the third level, and which we think is probably five to 10 years out at this point, is what we call the utility grid, the global grid, the service grid, etc. And this is where people start to really talk about utility computing in the sense that something analogous to the electrical grid where you’re going to be able to tap into the wall or into some network and be able to on demand request your compute resources, your storage resources, your memory, your applications, etc., and pay for that on a charge-back type of mechanism. Today that’s happening inside the enterprise, so you’re seeing some utility computing models happening inside the organization where different departments that have different P&Ls are actually tracking the use by other groups inside the organization of their compute resources and billing them back to the appropriate department.

As we move forward and as the technology and standards evolve, you will see a move towards utility centers like computing where maybe a telco, for example, could be providing the service mechanisms back to the end-user. So as today some telcos provide network services and VPNs and others on a per fee-use basis to their clients, it’s not a far extension to think of them as setting up datacenters or a compute resource environment, that a company could be linked via the networks that they’re already being provided by the telco to lease additional cycles, when perhaps they’re doing a job and they need more compute power. They could simply push their jobs down the pike to the datacenter offered by the telco, do the job, the work is sent back, and an accounting mechanism that we already have today in the enterprise grid space of platforms, technologies, etc. would actually bill back or charge back or record the amount of usage, and then a fee per that usage is billed to the customer.

InfoWorld: You mentioned telcos, and they’re of course large IT system users. What about a small company selling back cycles to some kind of grid consortium and then getting some kind of fee in return for allowing use of its compute resources in a grid?

Baird: Right. I think the possibility is there, the notion that many different smaller players that might have additional resources that could provide them [through] some sort of utility mechanism that is set up to accept additional resources and manage those resources. But I think that’s going further out into the world of the vision for grid. I think that there’s a lot of work and a lot of political sharing issues that would need to go on, and so I think it’s more likely to be a pretty straight line, contiguous kind of grid scenario where you are talking from one vendor back to another vendor that’s providing the additional cycles. Now that vendor, the telco in that case, may be providing those cycles to many different players at the same time, but I think it’s probably going to be a bit more centralized at least at the early stages, but what you’ve just set up though is absolutely within the realm of possibility.

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