How many times has this happened to you? ... You hear a song you like (on the radio, at the gym, at a party), but you have no way of finding out who the artist is, or what the name of the song is.
I recently had the opportunity to meet Avery Wang, chief scientist at Shazam Entertainment. These guys have created a really cool new service that allows you to simply flip on your mobile phone when you hear a song you like (whether you're at a bar, a restaurant, etc.), dial up the Shazam service -- and within seconds you get the artist name and song name. From there, you can immediately download the ringtone to your phone. As mobile phones and mobile music players converge, it doesn't take much of a stretch of the imagination to infer that in the very near future, consumers will be able to take it to the next step and simply download the given song on their phone.
So what's this have to do with Grid computing?
Nothing, really -- it's more of a clustering approach. Shazam uses a very low-latency architecture (a big Linux cluster running diskless on commodity, 64-bit hardware). When a user submits a music quiery (an applet sitting on the phone does a short recording and sends an audio file to the Shazam service, via Java), the request goes to the master node, then gets multicasted over TCP/IP to a 'recognition cluster.' The nodes in the recognition cluster are filled with hash tables containing indeces of the music.
Shazam keeps tabs on 2.5 million songs -- but does not actually store all of the songs in the infrastructure (which would be prohibitively cumbersome, storage / latency-wise). Instead, they use proprietary "fingerprinting scripts" to tag songs. These fingerprints are very small compared to actual music files -- so the time required to compare a quiery against the known field of 2.5 million songs is on the order of only milliseconds.
As Grid computing continues to evolve, I believe that in the near future we will see enterprises similarly use mobile clients to invoke services in a Grid computing infrastructure -- but instead of using low latency tags of fingerprinting systems, the infrastructure will be able to leverage large file transfer capabilities to accommodate end user requests. Really creative new services like Shazam make you wonder what the future of enterprise mobility will look like, and how large scale enterprise applications will behave in this sort of model.