Survey finds grid computing uptake slow

Only one in five IT managers surveyed by analyst firm IDC understood grid computing with most respondents failing to see its...

Only one in five IT managers surveyed by analyst firm IDC understood grid computing with most respondents failing to see its value as a technology alternative that has any relevance in the real world.

Respondents even dubbed it a technology bandied about by marketing professionals and the media. Unless suppliers can bridge the education gap, uptake is likely to remain small.

IDC PC hardware market analyst Michael Sager admits early adoption has been restricted to high-performance computing and there is still the big task of educating the enterprise.

"The true benefits and value proposition of the model must be pushed even further as end users from the survey are still generally confused as to the concept of grid computing," Sager said.

"It takes a huge cultural shift for an organisation to move towards grid computing, and there still needs to be a lot more education from suppliers."

"But there are a few success stories; the IBM and Qantas [project] is the main one that comes to mind, and HP has had a few big deals," Sager said.

Europe is one part of the world where grid computing is finding mainstream success with grid server revenues likely to reach $1.8bn (£972m).

The main driver is an interest in more efficient and lower-cost computing and, based on a study of buying behaviour and trends undertaken nationally early this year.

IDC found that only 6.8% of respondents indicated they were moving to or planning to move towards grid computing model.

However, more than double this number, 15.2%, claimed they did not know if their organisation was moving towards this model.

Gartner research director Phillip Sargeant said grid computing is still at the experimental stage, adding that suppliers are sponsoring academic projects in this area.

Supervising engineer of the Australian car manufacturer Holden Innovation, Winson Ng said the reason enterprises are not using grid computing on a day-to-day basis is because the infrastructure is not yet available.

Ng said the main inhibitors to enterprise grid computing include availability of expertise to manage the infrastructure including a wide network, availability of bandwidth, and operational issues like time differences between computing resources.

But he said there are real business benefits in grid computing for computer aided engineering (CAE).

"For example, CAE could run calculations overnight but it would need a smart system to look at the office hours of locations," he said. "Also, the flexibility to work across operating systems and legacy software is needed."

Ng said he sees great value in grid computing, especially in a large company with many idle CPUs.

"It's not far away for manufacturers like us that need to use as many CPUs as are available," he said. "If General Motors [US] is interested in the technology now it could be three to five years before it becomes an IT-approved process. It's definitely the way forward and the sooner the better."

Siobhan McBride and Rodney Gedda write for Computerworld Today

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