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Companies take baby steps toward grid

A Forrester Research survey shows that many companies are taking steps toward grid computing despite uncertainty about where they are headed.

A majority of IT and business leaders surveyed by Forrester Research say they are confused about what grid computing means. At the same time, those companies are already starting to use pieces of grid technology, stepping slowly toward the direction of grid computing, according to the Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research.

Forrester surveyed 149 large companies in North America to learn about their knowledge and use of grid technologies. Thirty-seven percent reported that they are testing, rolling out or implementing some form of grid technology. Another 30% said they are considering grid technology.

Understanding a concept is one thing and then applying it is another.
Subhash Chand
SunGuard Collegis

While the term "grid" has become a trendy term that many software vendors define differently, most IT and business leaders believe they will use some form of the technology in the future, said Frank Gillett, an analyst at Forrester Research who authored the report, "Grid gets big, but the term is confusing."

"This strong level of interest in grid shows that firms are receptive and interested in products that offer to increase asset utilization, whether it is servers or data that are being shared," Gillett said.

The technical definition of grid computing is the use of many computers in a network to solve a single problem at the same time that requires a great number of computer processing cycles or access to large amounts of data. For many years, universities have been using grid computing to solve complicated mathematical problems and unravel intricate scientific dilemmas.

Since Oracle last year began making grid computing a central theme to its technology strategy, with therelease of its latest database model, 10g, other vendors have also caught on making the term "grid" convoluted, Gillett said.

IT and business leaders said that "grid" means many things, but there is no consensus on a common meaning. Twenty percent reported that the term was confusing, and another 15% didn't know what the term meant at all, Gillett said.

Learning about grid computing from Oracle made the concept sound simple, said Subhash Chand, a member of the New Orleans Oracle Users Group.

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"For me, it's easy to understand but somebody who is not familiar with how a database works -- or what is required to process information. I can imagine that it is a little confusing," said Chand, who is a team leader with Maitland, Fla.-based, IT consultancy SunGuard Collegis. "Understanding a concept is one thing and then applying it is another."

Clustered computing and data grids were chosen as the most common definition of grid computing, according to the Forrester survey, beating out parallel processing of numeric workloads by a wide margin. No definition garnered more than 38%, even though multiple responses were allowed, Gillett said.

While the definition was foggy, business executives said that their largest interest in grid is to solve broad problems such as financial analysis, and scientific or engineering analysis, Gillett said.

Companies are currently busy with IT projects that may lead to grid computing, but they currently aren't changing their entire database environment, said Greg Lechkun, who serves as vice president of the Detroit Oracle Users Group.

"As distributed databases take off, the need to have those parallel type databases out there will take off, but I don't see it really coming useful to me right now," said Lechkun, a DBA with Detroit, Mich.-based DTE Energy. "The databases I deal with are relatively small and with grid computing my guess is they're talking about a hell of a lot more gigabytes of data."

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