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Boeing sees grid supply chains taking flight

A Boeing executive overseeing the company's grid-enabled supply chain technology names the top challenges and biggest benefits of the technology.

PHILADELPHIA -- Grid-enabled supply chains have the potential to deliver huge value, but there are many factors...

to consider when it comes to getting vendors and customers on board with the technology, according to a Boeing grid computing executive.

Speaking at the Gt'O4 grid computing conference, J.S. Hurley, director of grid evaluation and implementation for the Boeing Company, said there are many problems supply chains will face when looking at implementing grid technology. Those problems include budgetary, technological and security concerns, he said.

To stand before you and to say that there aren't any challenges would be quite disingenuous.
J.S. Hurley
director of grid evaluation and implementation Boeing Company

"To stand before you and to say that there aren't any challenges would be quite disingenuous," Hurley said. "The good news is that none of the challenges are overwhelming. The challenges are typically cultural and some are informational, but they're all challenges that we can overcome."

Whether it's a supply chain vendor or customer, everyone has budgetary concerns, Hurley said. There is constant pressure to cut costs while simultaneously delivering innovations. To make matters worse, he said, the research and development budget at companies is often the first thing to get slashed when financial troubles arise.

This is why it's important, Hurley said, for vendors and customers alike to be completely up front and honest with each other about what they can deliver in terms of grid technology.

"When vendors are not able to make good on promises it hurts us all," Hurley said. "We need to be very careful and very honest about what we say we really can do. We need to know what is real, what we can take to the bank."

Grid success: Good security, clear definitions

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In terms of technology, any grid computing implementation that touches on the IT infrastructure of two or more companies needs to be user friendly, Hurley said. Companies making use of any new technology don't want to have to go through a lot of end-user training, because that will result in lost productivity.

Along those same lines, Hurley said it's important that any applications run on a grid be extremely well defined.

"As a customer, if you're talking about utilizing a technology, you better make sure that it meets your company's requirements," he suggested.

In the end, the most important piece of the puzzle is security, according to Hurley. Security representatives from each company need to work together from the start of any project.

A major way to stop everything cold is security," Hurley said. "If you don't have your security people on board from day one, you can absolutely forget it."

Conference attendee F. Brett Berlin, an adjunct professor with George Mason University's School of Computational Science in Fairfax, Va., explained that the key to getting vendors and customers on the same page has to do with focusing on the business value that grid computing delivers, rather than the technology itself.

Berlin, who also works as a consultant and has been involved in high performance computing for more than 25 years, said that focusing simply on the "potential" of the technology leaves too many questions open that can lead to distrust in the supply chain.

"When grids are defined by computers and technology and things like that, this is a useless concept," Berlin said. "When grids are defined as something that is able to bring various resources together and solve problems that is the value."

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