Oracle plans commercial grid consortium

Oracle is trying to establish a consortium to hammer out technology standards for grid computing in commercial environments, a...

Oracle is trying to establish a consortium to hammer out technology standards for grid computing in commercial environments, a company executive told the Oracle OpenWorld conference.

Oracle would not name prospective members of the consortium, but said it was talking to customers who have shown an interest in grid computing, particularly in the financial services and healthcare industries.

The company was also in discussions with IT suppliers, including those making blade servers and other hardware components for the grid, said Chuck Rozwat, Oracle executive vice-president for server technologies.

"We're interested in forming a commercial grid consortium so that together with other members of the industry, we can define standards that make up the application programming interfaces and functions for the commercial grid computing infrastructure. We are well on our way to doing that," he told conference delegates.

At least one prominent group for defining grid standards already exists - the Global Grid Forum (GGF). Oracle, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems, and a number of academic and federal research institutions are members of the group.

"We're definitely not trying to compete with the Global Grid Forum and we think some people will be members of both groups," Rozwat said. "We think their focus tends to be on scientific problems" rather than the issues facing enterprise customers, he said.

For example, grids used by the academic and research communities tend to be distributed widely around the globe and across multiple organisations, Rozwat said.

Businesses, in comparision, are expected to build grids that operate within the company, even within a single datacentre. In addition, the GGF's level of interest in security is not as high as it needs to be for commercial grid deployment.

Bill Claybrook, a research director for Linux and grid computing at analyst organisation Aberdeen Group, agreed with the need for a separate standards group for commercial grids.

"People at GGF are interested in a grid architecture that applies across organisations, even across countries. When you start talking about commercial grids, most people won't be sharing information or computing resources across companies," Claybrook said.

In addition, GGF's roots in the academic and research worlds mean it is not geared towards helping its members make money from grid computing. One of the goals of the commercial grid forum is likely to be establish standards quickly that allow suppliers to start making money, he said.

Ian Foster, a member of GGF's steering committee, was surprised to learn of Oracle's plan. The GGF includes Sun, IBM, HP, Intel, Microsoft so there is already a pretty good group there representing commercial perspectives.

"One issue here is that there's a tendency to use the 'grid' word to describe any sort of clustered computing. Maybe [Oracle] is talking about the need for standards for a clustered system, which is an important area and not a major focus of GGF. Once you get beyond a single administrative domain I think there will be significant overlap between the work of the two groups," Foster said.

James Niccolai writes for IDG News Service

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