Friday, December 02, 2005

Thoughts on grid computing

For many years people have talked about grid computing. In the scientific computing business, grid computing has been considered by many to be a panacea for various computing problems and there a number of projects are that try and tap into the power of grids. Examples include the world community grid from IBM and United Devices or the efforts from BOINC.

While community grids probably work well for the kinds of projects listed above, I have always wondered how useful they will be for more specific applications, e.g. a drug discovery effort at a pharma company. There are companies that are running grids, to they really give better results than a cluster. IMO, cluster computing has certain advantages for an IT group and in terms of efficiency that a grid cannot achieve in reality. While Prof. Charles Brooks via Predictor@home has demonstrated how multiscale modeling efforts can be applied to grids, I am still somewhat uncertain about the success in a commercial setting. Cluster computing, for now, would be my preference if I was an IT manager. Certainly there are applications, such as lower-priority, long term projects where a grid solution would be optimal (e.g. a routine, version controlled genome annotation project) as it can keep humming along in the background when resources are found within an organization. On the other hand, for a mission critical project (e.g. virtual screening for a specific kinase target), I would prefer to deploy a cluster, i.e. resources that I can control.

What do others think?

Further Reading

Sun's Grid Flop
Cluster Computing
Clusters better than grids


At 5:40 PM, Blogger Dan Ciruli said...

I definitely agree that the hype surrounding true "grid" computing is out of control: almost no one owns 10,000 machines running 12 different operating systems on 4 continents, so why is it practical to try to harness them that way?

There are solutions that are larger than traditional clusters, though, that let you take advantage of hundreds of machines--my company (Digipede) has one that runs on Windows--and there are also Linux and UNIX solutions out there.

Most people only use one OS and one development platform, so what they really need is a system that lets them take advantage of their machines and their tools.


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