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Grid project nets Web services tools

Leading participants in the development of geographically distributed "grid" computing projects are bolstering security and other protocols necessary to deliver Web services over grid networks.

Work being done by the Globus Project, a grid computing research and development community, will allow commercial grids to offer their computing and data resources as Web services and could lower the barrier to high-end computing.

Globus will add tools to its Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA) that deliver tighter integration with Web services technologies, database support, and integration with J2EE, according to Globus. Vendors such as IBM, Sun Microsystems, Platform Computing, Hewlett-Packard, and Compaq will be implementing the OGSA work as products this year and next, according to sources familiar with the plans.

In February, IBM and Globus will propose a number of distributed protocols at the Global Grid Forum. Issues will be mostly centred on security, authentication, identification, and collaboration, according to Irving Wladawsky-Berger, IBM's vice-president of technology and strategy. Grid computing start-up Avaki will also propose a global naming specification.

IBM is also at work on toolkits that will allow AIX and Linux users to "grid-enable" their applications, IBM officials said last week.

The efforts to secure the technology foundation of grids is geared at making grids an environment for deploying Web services.

"From a business perspective, OGSA will permit the creation of composite Web Services that link sites that are in different administrative domains or companies," said Bob Marcus, director of Emerging Technology Strategies and former chief technology officer of Rogue Wave Software. "Some of the applications include on-demand computational resources, data analysis across multiple sites, collaborative engineering across companies, and real-time supply chain integration."

Before grid-based Web services are ready for the enterprise, the OGSA technology "requires the authentication and authorisation of a user across sites. There must also be the ability to coordinate resources and data transfer among sites to implement the Web Service," said Marcus.

Grid-based Web services projects are already underway. IBM recently announced a massive computing grid based at the University of Pennsylvania that will connect the servers and databases of hospitals around the world to share information on mammogram procedures and research. As the Globus tools become available, IBM will make it possible for participating hospitals to have Web service access to the data available on the grid without having to invest in the infrastructure.

However, IBM's Dan Powers, the vice-president of Linux Solutions, cautions that grid computing's road to broad commercial acceptance will be a matter of gradual evolution similar to that of Linux.

''Where you see [grid] application work starting to develop is in the research communities and then among those companies that are tied to research such as medical, pharmaceutical and biotech companies,'' said Powers.

At LinuxWorld, William Zeitler, IBM senior vice-president and group executive of IBM's Server Group, said he expects most companies to begin grid projects internally before they venture outside their own four walls with such projects. "I think you will see many grid projects start internally and be run by ISPs," Zeitler said.

Ultimately, companies offering grid-based Web services will tap new revenue streams as valuable data created on a grid system becomes information that can be sold via Web services to partners or subscribers, explained Wolfgang Gentzsch, the director of group computing at Sun.
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