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Compaq enters grid computing fray

Compaq is following IBM and Sun Microsystems into the field of grid computing, which allows computers to be harnessed together to create large amounts of computing power for research, development and other high-intensity needs.

In separate announcements this week, all three companies unveiled news about their grid computing programmes.

Sun has released a beta version of its latest Sun Grid Engine Enterprise Edition 5.3 software, designed to make it easier for computer grids to be linked together within a company.

IBM announced that it is helping to create a life sciences grid computing system in North Carolina that will be used for genomic research. Compaq also announced the creation of its own grid computing programme.

Sun's software release, which can be downloaded free of charge, aims to provide improved control and resource allocation management when using grid systems. The software follows the release last year of Sun's original grid engine software and technologies.

Peter Jeffcock, group marketing manager for Sun's technical market products, said the enterprise edition of the grid software would help to refine set-up and operations for companies setting up "campus grid" systems, where they link the computer resources of several laboratories within their own companies.

About 12,000 downloads have been distributed since the original grid engine software was made available last year, with more than 118,000 chips now being managed in grids using the software, Jeffcock said.

The beta enterprise edition is the next evolutionary step in Sun's grid computing strategy, he added.

IBM said it would be working with the non-profit group Microelectronics Centre of North Carolina to create a grid computing system for life sciences research. Called the North Carolina Bioinformatics Grid, the project involves more than 60 groups, including businesses, universities and biomedical research firms. The announcement comes just three months after IBM entered the fledgling grid computing industry.

While a little late to the field, Compaq said it is creating a worldwide Grid Computing Solutions Programme to provide software, hardware and support to customers seeking grid computing systems.

The company said it would conduct the programme through an alliance with Platform Computing, using that company's Globus Toolkit and Grid Suite products, along with Compaq Tru64 Unix AlphaServer systems and ProLiant servers running Linux.

"Grid computing is emerging as a major new capability for modern, high-performance technical computing," said Bill Blake, vice-president of Compaq's High Performance Technical Computing group. "Grid computing makes possible new and previously unimagined collaborations and applications."

Compaq also said it has created an Advanced Centre for the Study of Grid Computing to continue to develop the technology.

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