Platform Computing has come to an agreement with the Globus Project, a multi-institutional research effort, to productize the Globus Toolkit, essentially creating a canned solution of open source software already available as a free download

on the Web.

The partnership is intended to push commercial acceptance of Grid computing, touted as a technology for increasing both collaboration and the development of the Internet.

The commercially-supported solution will include installation, integration and configuration as well as support of the product. The approach is similar to Red Hat Inc. with Linux, aside from the fact that Platform is working with Globus to maximize the potential of the Took Kit rather than simply downloading their software from the Web and shrink-wrapping it.

“”It’s almost a case of build your own model or we can do it for you,”” said Ian Baird, Markham, Ont.-based Platform’s chief business architect and corporate grid strategist. Baird said partnering with Globus reflected Platform belief in the importance of partnership on the Grid.

Platform has also released the Platform Grid Suite, more of an end-to-end solution combining Platform’s own distributed computing software with pieces of the Globus toolkit and Cambridge, Mass.-based Avaki Corp. security management. The announcement also included confirmation that Houston-based Compaq Computer Corp. will make the suite available on its high-end servers.

Platform is one of the largest players in distributed computing, which serves as the core of Grid computing. Distributed computing allows a group of computers to effectively pool their computer cycles, making computing more efficient. Baird offers as an example the SETI@home program, which pools the power of millions of computers in a search for extraterrestrial life. Grid computing enables the sharing of data and applications as well as power across organizations and continents, and as such it requires more advanced resource management and security capabilities. For example, mutual authentication has to be ensured before organizations would share resources across the Grid.

“”In a distributed environment, you create a cluster; in a Grid environment, you create cluster upon cluster. You create a virtual supercomputer,”” Baird said. “”The eventual direction is that this would become like the electrical grid that this is out there for all to use.””

This potential is the reason companies like Compaq and IBM Corp., as well as the United States Department of Defense and the Italian National Agency for New Technology, Energy and the Environment have been using and investing in Grid computing.

Ty Rabe, director of high-performance technical computing solutions for Compaq, said the company will run the Platform Grid Suite as a layer of software on their high-end servers. He said he expects high-end customers, mainly scientists and engineers, to be the first to adopt the suite, and that he was unsure when and if the suite would become a standard server product.

“”It’s a matter of how quickly the Grid product catches on with a broad audience,”” he said.

Dr. Ian Foster, Globus Project lead and senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory at the University of Chicago, said the sharing of computing and data resources can benefit corporations in the same way it benefits scientists and government departments.

“”If you as a corporation have computations that fit that mold, you can have a massive return on investment,”” said Foster.

Indeed, David Fish, president and CEO of Avaki said some Fortune 50 companies are already beginning to employ Grid computing for application sharing, which is seen as a step beyond data and resource pooling.

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