While organizations in Canada are increasingly aware of the benefits of grid computing, they have yet to capitalize on it, according to results of the latest Oracle grid index report.

Grid computing uses software to share processing loads among a wide range of computers. Some vendors claim

it can lead to increased efficiency and reduced hardware costs. Oracle released a grid computing version of its flagship database 10g more than a year ago.

The study was conducted for Oracle by U.K.-based research firm Quocirca, which conducted 1,356 interviews with senior IT decision makers including 100 respondents in Canada.

The overall score for businesses was 4.41, on a scale of 0 to 10 with the results showing that no one country enjoys an outright lead. At the moment, there is still room to maneuver in this leadership race, said Dale Vile, service director, primary research for Quocirca.

While that score may not seem high, it does not mean the technology does not work well, and in fact, in the last two years, grid technology has become “”rock solid.”” The study says the score is more an indicator that uptake of the technology is new.

With an overall score of 4.33, Canada is on par with many of the Western European Countries surveyed including the United Kingdom (4.33), Belgium/Netherlands/Luxembourg (4.33) and France (4.22).

In comparison to other regions, Canada has a high “”knowledge score”” (6.22) which indicates that many organizations are aware of and understand the technology. However, unless improvements are made in hardware consolidation and standardization – the core elements of grid computing – Canada could fall behind.

Vile suggested that standardization may be more of an issue in North America because there is “”more diversity of hardware environments than in the rest of the world,”” but work now being undertaken by standards bodies will correct this problem.

“”Also, don’t think of this as a big-bang thing where you have to re-platform your entire business; it can work on a project basis,”” he added.

Vile also noted a “”high correlation of adoption”” between grid computing and emerging technologies such as Web Services and Service Oriented Architectures (SOA). More than 70 per cent of Canadian organizations are considering the impact these technologies will have on their IT systems, the survey says, and about 60 per cent of Canadian organizations in 2005 will use SOA towards the development of new applications.

Such applications could include call centres and online trading, where there are huge fluctuations in terms of demand and companies are at the mercy of end users or customers. Grid computing serves to smooth out these demands by redistributing processing workload so companies don’t have to over-size their servers, make unnecessary investments in additional hardware, or, even worse, ration processing power to their users.

“”The one thing we do have is a lot of hard evidence for the business case (for grid computing),”” says Vile.

According to the report, “”contrary to some media coverage, most respondents across the globe said that they look to see an ROI from their IT infrastructure in 18 months to two years.””

And while significant publicity has gone to the use of grid computing in life sciences and humanitarian efforts, there needs to be a greater focus on what grid can do for IT departments in the enterprise, he added.

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