These days it seems that science fact is at least as amazing as science fiction. In a few short generations, actual developments in the real world of computing and information systems, biotechnology, nanotechnology and robotics have surpassed the imaginary leaps of early sci-fi authors such as Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein both in terms of technical possibilities and societal ramifications.
At the forefront of evolutionary change in information science is grid computing — briefly put, a developing information technology framework that is paving the way toward a new, more powerful generation of computing and telecommunications.
In June of this year, the Global Grid Forum and Enterprise Grid Alliance, the two largest grid computing professional organizations in the world, merged to form the Open Grid Forum (OGF).
The OGF executives responsible for directing and managing this huge, complex volunteer organization will make their public debut September 11 through 14 at the GridWorld-GGF18 conference in Washington D.C.
Mark Linesch, OGF’s first chairman and former vice president of HP’s Adaptive Enterprise Program, took time out from the hectic preparations for the meet for an exclusive interview with the E-Commerce Times. In addition to providing a preview of events, Linesch spoke about the accomplishments of and expectations for the Open Grid Forum — and for grid computing in general.
E-Commerce Times: Hello, Mark, and thanks for taking time out to give the E-Commerce Times and its readers the opportunity to hear from you in the runup to GGF18 at GridWorld in Washington D.C. Could you give us a preview of what’s in store at the D.C. meet?
Mark Linesch: Yes, we will formally introduce ourselves to the grid and distributed computing communities during GGF18 at GridWorld in Washington, D.C., Sept. 11 to 14. GridWorld 2006 combines multiple programs for business and IT professionals, and the Globus and OGF communities.
The Solutions Program offers practical insight into enabling the successful integration of grid solutions within existing enterprise IT environments. The Technology Program provides in-depth discussion of grid technologies and how to deploy them. The Community and Standards Program features the Open Grid Forum’s GGF18 grid standards and research group sessions, high-quality workshops and invited talks. It also contains in-depth sessions for the Globus community. An exciting part of this year’s event is the extensive Sponsor and Grid Showcases featuring hands-on Grid demonstrations by leading organizations.
GridWorld is a great opportunity to network with experts in the field, discuss ideas, collaborate and communicate. Key networking functions include the Globus 10th Birthday Party on Monday evening and the Open Grid Forum’s Launch Reception Tuesday evening.
E-Commerce Times: Just to make sure we’re clear about basic definitions, can you give us your, and the OGF’s, definition of “grid computing,” where it began and where it is now?
Linesch: Unfortunately, the industry has many definitions of “grid” — particularly in relationship to next-generation distributed computing technologies such as virtualization and service orientation. Although I think it is quite natural in the maturation of grid and next-generation distributed computing technologies for the industry to still be “storming, forming and norming” on the names, definitions and boundaries of these concepts, it can be confusing. In general, I personally tend to think of “grid” as shared and service-oriented infrastructure for shared services across a portion of the data center, multiple data centers and/or multiple organizations.
Grid architectures, technologies and solutions have demonstrated real scientific and business value and will continue to evolve and mature when implemented within a single data center, across multiple data centers and across multiple organizations. However, like all emerging technologies, grid technologies take time to mature and become suitable for different types of applications.
All emerging applications and technologies start someplace, and grids started in high-performance computing and have continued to evolve and grow into the broader IT environment. I often talk about the three phases of grid adoption: the early adopters; then moving to a proven solution phase; and then, finally, to more pervasive adoption.
It’s clear that the scientific and engineering communities were first out of the gate and provided a foundation for early adoption and proven solutions that the broader industry can build upon. It’s also true that in some of the enterprise areas that are closely associated with high-performance computing — finance, pharma, manufacturing, etc. — we are starting to see increased adoption of grid and grid-related solutions such as virtualization and service orientation.
We are also seeing the concept of grids moving from specific departments or functions within the enterprise to the broader IT data center environment. I think this progression is very natural and predictable as grids cross the chasm from specialized applications to the broader IT environment. What is not easily predictable is the timing of this technology diffusion and adoption.
E-Commerce Times: SOA (service-oriented architecture), P2P (peer-to-peer) networking and ongoing advances in semiconductor chip engineering are clearly contributing to the development of grid computing. Can you give us an idea how these and other technological innovations are integral to the ongoing advancement of grid computing and its end user applications?
Linesch: I believe that the industry is on a journey toward a new world of distributed computing. The technologies you mentioned are fellow travelers on this journey. Virtualization and automation of IT processes are maturing concepts that are now being utilized in data centers around the world to lower costs and increase utilization rates.
Service orientation is a powerful evolution of existing distributed computing concepts and will enable the creation of a more modular and flexible IT environment — and the management of this environment in service to the business.
All three of those concepts deliver great value as stand-alone technologies. Grids are enabled by virtualization, automation and service-orientation technologies; they also integrate these technologies into a solution — particularly across functional and organizational boundaries.
E-Commerce Times: With knowledge in general advancing at such a great pace and so many changes taking place technologically, specialization is a necessity, but this can also lead to narrowness of vision and close mindedness. It seems to me that one of the great benefits of organizations such as the OGF is their potential to break down barriers and lead to even greater advances and understanding. Can you give us any thoughts on this, and perhaps some specific examples of EGA/GGF project work that illustrate this?
Linesch: Moving toward effective resource sharing, information integration and collaboration both within and between enterprises is challenging, and the barriers can include people, process and technology.
For instance, a technology barrier may be sharing applications and heterogeneous resources (network, server, storage). That’s why virtualization and service orientation are such key technology components of grids — enabling IT to logically represent resources, and architecting applications as modular services that can execute on these shared resources in a more fluid and dynamic manner.
As our name implies, the Open Grid Forum is a combination of two simple but synergistic concepts: “Open Forum” and “Open Standards.” As an Open Forum, OGF brings the grid community together — to identify and align requirements, workshop solutions and communicate progress.
As an Open Standards organization, OGF aligns with broadly adopted industry standards while developing new specifications to enable grid software interoperability. Both aspects of OGF are involved in helping to bring people together to break down barriers and workshop solutions.
Regarding specific examples, I can think of several:
- As an open forum, OGF holds three major events per year in different parts of the world where grid specifications and best practices are advanced, and where uses of grids in many scientific, research and government enterprises are explored. GGF18 at GridWorld is a great example of how our organization is reaching out to showcase the business value of grids through a combination of in-depth workshops, tutorials and invited talks.
- As an open standards organization, we collaborate extensively with other standards development organizations throughout the industry. For instance, one of our key groups within OGF is the Standards Development Organization Collaboration on Networked Resources Management. This cross-institutional group — with representatives from many of the major SDOs such asDMTF andW3C — is pursuing clarity of the standards landscape regarding the management of network resources. Each of the different standards organizations has many one-to-one liaison relationships which are effective and productive for handling specific issues. The SCRM-WG enables something different — a round table-style collaboration that provides a bird’s eye view of this broad and complicated technical area, helping further the work already underway between these leading standards bodies.
E-Commerce Times: Besides having somewhat geographically distinct member bases, you yourself have noted that the GGF and EGA have somewhat different focuses — the EGA has a practical, commercial enterprise focus, while and the GGF is an open, collaborative community with a rich history of contributions in grid research, best practices and standards. What led the two organizations to come together and join forces, and at this particular point in time?
Linesch: I think that the merger happened because it just makes sense. In other words, it just makes sense to continue to look for ways in which to bring the grid community together, and focus on accelerating adoption. Together, we are bringing more of the grid community together around the same table to accelerate results, communicate more clearly and collaborate more effectively.
Our approach to the merger was fairly practical and measured. We created a process that would allow most of our respective members to focus on the technical work while, in the background, we were fine-tuning the plans and working through the merger details. During October of 2005, we began more formal discussions and outlined a three-phase process.
Phase One established our overall merger framework and led to the signing of a nonbinding letter of intent. During Phase Two, the separate GGF and EGA organizations began the merger transition — establishing joint teams to develop detailed plans to become one organization. This culminated in the June 2006 announcement of a definitive merger agreement and our intent to incorporate under a new name, “Open Grid Forum.” Phase Three was about integrating the two organizations, transitioning the membership, finalizing the board and day-to-day operational leadership, and preparing for our launch during GGF18 at GridWorld.
E-Commerce Times: How do you view the differences and similarities between the two, and how can these benefit or pose problems for the OGF going forward?
Linesch: The fundamental differences between the organizations were identified early in our discussions and deemed a benefit of the merger. The EGA has a practical, commercial enterprise focus while the GGF has an open, collaborative community with a rich history of contributions in grid research, best practices and standards. Together we are very complementary — particularly if we embrace the energy and diversity of our members and channel it into focused priorities and results for our international community of grid researchers, developers, educators, users and solution providers.
E-Commerce Times: How will these affect the merger process and subsequent organizational management approach?
Linesch: We have received great support and encouragement from the global grid community since announcing our plans to merge. We have also received a clear mandate regarding what the community thinks is important.
During the merger transition, we surveyed hundreds of GGF and EGA members who sent a clear and compelling message regarding the type of organization needed for the marketplace. More than 80 percent of respondents indicated that the support of open standards was critical to their participation. They want the new organization to have a strong focus on grid adoption — bringing key organizations and individuals from the community together to better chart direction and pursue aggressive priorities.
Respondents are also excited about the potential to better connect the interests of enterprise, academia and government. Additionally, members cited the importance of working in a collaborative environment with open democratic processes that can enable them to contribute and make a difference.
Organizationally, balance is clearly an important theme in serving the needs of our diverse community. The day-to-day leadership and management of the Open Grid Forum activities is the responsibility of the president, functional vice presidents, area directors and group chairs.
The OGF will have dedicated functions that focus on the requirements of commercial enterprises, as well as research, scientific and education communities.
These functions will help influence and complement our standards efforts — enabling a focus on the unique needs of each community, while bringing all of the communities together to share ideas and develop open standards for software interoperability. We will also have a regional function within OGF to more effectively represent our global community and ensure that our international partners can influence our directions and priorities.
E-Commerce Times: OGF recently assembled its Board of Directors. Can you describe how its composition is reflective of the organization’s diversity, its main goals and the way it will operate at the project and regional levels?
Linesch: The composition of the board reflects our overall desire to design a community-driven, open organization that balances the requirements of organizational and individual members. To accomplish this balance, we must encourage grass roots participation and promote inclusiveness and technical meritocracy. We must also provide the appropriate governance, steering and oversight critical to the health of the organization and the timely delivery of results.
Our new board of directors is a key part of the organizational design … providing a voice for both large organizations that fund our efforts and the expert individuals within [the] community so critical to producing results.
The board of directors provides guidance and oversight through their active strategic and policy leadership. Within the board, two-thirds of the seats are occupied by organizational members nominated from our platinum tier, and one-third are nominated from the community at-large. The intent of this composition is to enable a result-oriented environment with broad participation and a mandate from the key stakeholders and the international grid community at large.
E-Commerce Times: What can EGA and GGF project teams expect to see change and remain the same as the merger process proceeds?
Linesch: From the start, our objective has been to not slow down our group activities and important project work being done within our community. Since January 2006 we have published approximately 20 documents associated with grid architectures, specifications and best practices. We’ve kept the existing GGF and EGA leadership in place to help facilitate progress, and most will continue their leadership service in the new organization.
Regarding changes, we have established a new Technical Strategy Committee within OGF to help manage our technical strategy and road map process, and align with key stakeholders within the community.
We are also kicking off the concept of “requirement summits” at OGF events where we can capture and roll up key requirements from our user, developer and vendor communities. I am excited about both of these new efforts and the opportunity they provide to better align our work with key stakeholder requirements.
E-Commerce Times: I’ve read some of your thoughts about how grid computing and the concept of the Grid with a capital “G” is developing in a somewhat organic fashion, both within organizations at the single and multiple data center level, as well as across organizations and even across more loosely defined and dispersed Internet and network communities. Where do you see grid computing making its greatest impact near-term? Could you cite one or two examples?
Linesch: I think you see the impact of grids across the spectrum right now — from specialized application to regionally oriented infrastructure. For organizations just starting out on their journey, I often say that grids are a core part of the next stage of distributed computing, and it’s important that they look for specific problems that they might solve with grid today. Then start small. Let the infectious nature of grids lead to additional applications and solutions. Most of these grids are application-specific — that is, justified based on a specific application solution as opposed to being a “build-it and they will come” part of the IT infrastructure.
Key industries such as finance, pharma and EDA (electronic design automation) are pursuing many interesting line-of-business applications in the areas of risk analysis, drug discovery and verification. Most of these applications are within a single organization today but are quickly moving to accommodate the distributed nature of experts and data within an organization.
Johnson and Johnson is an example of a company that started in 2004 with a small number of applications and a focus on the user. By the end of 2006, they have indicated that they could have as many as 26 applications running on their grid.
From a multi-organizational perspective, there are also some very interesting application-driven projects that involve research, business and government being developed around the world. For instance, I was in Taiwan recently, where collaboration between the government, medical and commercial organizations is delivering better care to asthma patients and better information for improved treatment and prevention.
Using an advanced data grid and an interface to asthma patients through wireless phone technology, the physician is able to engage with patients in a more real-time manner. Bringing together weather, environmental, drug and protocol information enables better patient care immediately, but also has the potential to provide valuable information exchange with other public and private healthcare organizations for future disease prevention and improved drug and treatment alternatives.
Finally, the large, national projects such as TeraGrid in the United States and EGEE (Enabling Grids for E-sciencE) in EMEA illustrate the longer-term trend of grids as infrastructure for collaboration in a variety of diverse disciplines. These projects involve multiple applications, sites, organizations and countries, along with thousands of CPUs, clusters and specialized instruments.
Science is now a team sport, and collaborating with other experts both within your discipline and between disciplines is critical to a country’s innovation and future economic development.
E-Commerce Times: The very nature of the grid concept might ring some security alarm bells. What are the security implications of grid computing and how will the OGF address them?
Linesch: In terms of general threats, grids are no different than any other distributed application, such as e-mail or the traditional World Wide Web — remember the huge security debate during the early days of e-commerce on the Internet? What’s unique to grids is that they center around the scalable sharing and management of distributed resources — computing or storage resources, large databases, unique instruments and so on. In grid security, it is not the occasional human intrusion that people are primarily worried about — as that is covered by normal security techniques — it is losing control over all those resources at the same time.
With regards to addressing the security threats, all the normal steps in the textbook apply. In addition, special attention is paid to the distributed and cross-organizational properties of grids. This often means minimized centralization, localized governance, and no single point of failure.
One of the key issues that people are currently working on is emergency response and distributed, cross-organizational authorization — how to quickly disable, in a controlled fashion, what the grid once enabled. We also look at how to best leverage the new standards and technologies that are emerging, such as the Web services specifications described in the WS-Security Profile now being adopted by the industry.
E-Commerce Times: Is there anything else in particular that you would like to say regarding the merger, the new organization and prospects for the future?
Linesch: Yes, I just want to thank the global grid community for the support and encouragement they have shown since announcing our plans to merge. The merger provides the opportunity to bring everyone together to focus on grid adoption and practical results, and I am excited about the opportunity we have before us.
E-Commerce Times: Again, many thanks for giving us the chance to speak with you. And best of luck in your future endeavors. No doubt, we’ll be hearing more from the OGF and about grid computing in the future.
Linesch: Always a pleasure and thanks for the opportunity to engage!
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