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Is Modern Grid Computing Applicable to Business?

Scaling applications made easy

How Is Modern Grid Computing Applicable to Business?
As physical enterprise IT systems increasingly adopt more decentralized infrastructure, distributed computing will unlock new business models, improve business competitiveness, and facilitate rapid change and structural migration. With the majority of businesses under continuous pressure to utilize all resources as efficiently as possible in order to maintain financial competition in crowded markets, distributed systems offer an attractive solution – centralized control coupled with dispersed physical assets and overheads.

This route is particularly attractive to software developers and providers looking to harness the power of the grid model to provide software as an on-demand service that delivers the same benefits to customers and end users without the on-site IT headache. The relentlessly increasing cost and complexity of maintaining IT departments and infrastructure makes on-tap computing power very attractive to modern enterprises.

There are many compelling reasons why the grid represents the future of business computing, and it’s worth taking a closer look at five key areas: scalability, speed, deployment, pervasiveness and cost.

Scalability is the very essence of distributed or grid computing. Businesses are understandably attracted to the idea of gaining the same benefits of commercially licensed applications supported by in-house IT departments, without having to deal with any of the associated costs and back-end mess. Consumers used to seamless transparency in online applications have no trouble using this model in their Web 2.0 world and now it’s the turn of businesses to follow suit by adopting Platform as a Service, or PaaS.

PaaS is the idea that a platform can be run as a service, which is very similar to a SaaS environment. The key difference between SaaS and PaaS, however, is that the platform itself is a service that hosts SaaS applications. Think of it as meta-SaaS. PaaS solutions are built from the ground up to harness the benefits of grid computing coupled with the simplicity of web access. SaaS applications that run on top of PaaS will benefit from easy deployment due to the inherent similarity in architecture. A good portion of businesses wear themselves out deploying, maintaining, and upgrading software systems using skills way outside their businesses’ core function of interest simply because the resulting application is indispensable. It’s these services that fit perfectly into the PaaS model. Over a grid, the power of existing systems can be scaled exponentially, maintained seamlessly, upgraded transparently, and redeployed almost instantly.

Distributed computing models exploit the computing resources of multiple networks to solve problems quickly and increase the speed and availability of applications to market. Grids have no particular relevance to any one business sector and can help increase productivity and competitiveness by facilitating the deployment of new systems or accelerating existing system performance. Grid-powered PaaS and the SaaS applications that run on top of it can be tapped on-demand anywhere across an organization via simple web technology by unskilled, untrained users who don’t need to know anything about where or how their application is being provided, only that it is continuously available, secure, and fast. For them, technology is becoming a utility.

Software as a Service benefits greatly from an elastic PaaS Web 2.0 delivery and management solution, which means software developers can save weeks of integration and configuration time by creating a suitable hosting environment for their SaaS application. Dynamic networked computing power and storage resources provide flexibility on a computing-on-demand model, eliminating the need for businesses to invest heavily in static hardware while at the same time benefiting from that partner’s grid experience.

Grid computing was created to throw almost limitless computational power and storage at problems that were too big for individual computers or small clusters to take on. Increasingly, one of the repercussions of this approach is that businesses and consumers alike are provided with so many relevant applications on-tap around them all the time that technology becomes almost ubiquitous and computing becomes pervasive. Grid computing will facilitate the growth of pervasive computing that will support daily tasks of large organizations and communities without any conscious awareness on behalf of individuals. This means that not only can software be delivered as a service, applications can be provided unobtrusively in the working environment, enabling constant connectivity and intuitive computation without any consideration for delivery, maintenance, or the more tiresome side of software deployment.

Perhaps the single biggest cited advantage of grid computing is its cost savings benefit. Indeed, analysts at Gartner have previously defined the value of the grid as "creating a more powerful, larger, single virtual system, or producing a less expensive alternative of the same size as the system it is replacing.” Grids pull together application, database and storage resources so that they may be shared across projects to provide more predictability at less cost with fewer software licenses. PaaS combined with SaaS finishes the picture by providing a payment model that allows businesses to be billed intelligently and only for the resources that they actually use, providing major savings on top of those made by avoiding initial investment in expensive hardware.

Implications of the Grid on Future Applications
Platform as a Service, distributed computing infrastructure, and virtualization are combining to create increasingly powerful and rapid networks.

The responsibility now lies with providers of on-demand application delivery platforms, managed services, and end-user applications to deliver robust services that are able to support developing distributed computing infrastructure.

If applications play nicely with grids, organizations will benefit from true business continuity through distributed, shared computing environments.

More Stories By David Abramowski

David Abramowski is a technologist turned product leader. David was a co-founder of Morph Labs, one of the first Platform as a Service plays on AWS. He was the GM for Parallels Virtuozzo containers, enterprise business, and most recently he is the leader of the product marketing team for the IT Operations Management solutions at the hyper growth SaaS company, ServiceNow.

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