Compaq signs "grid" computing partnership

The company will offer its Unix and Linux computers and services in combination with Platform Computing's software to join groups of computers into a collective supercomputer.

Compaq Computer has advanced its "grid" computing effort, announcing a deal Thursday to use Platform Computing's software to join groups of computers into one collective supercomputer.

Compaq will offer its Unix and Linux computers and services in combination with Platform's software, the companies said Wednesday. Previously, Compaq had offered similar services on its own, but now the company will incorporate Platform's commercial version of the open-source grid software from the Globus Project.

IBM and Sun Microsystems have been warming to grid computing. Compaq's expansion builds on a strong high-performance computing customer base, particularly in the area of genetics and pharmaceutical research.

Grid computing is a relative of distributed computing, best known for the SETI@home effort that uses a screensaver to harness the unused processing power of thousands of computers in a search for extraterrestrial radio communications.

Grid computing has long held potential for some types of computing tasks--typically those that don't require as much communication between one task and another. For this reason, they don't replace single mammoth supercomputers such as those from Cray. However, grid computing is popular among pharmaceutical companies and others.

Globus' tools enable grids to be set up that span the computing resources of different companies and organizations. The Globus standards ensure that information and resources are compartmentalized or shared as necessary. Globus grew out of a research effort at the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute and the Argonne National Laboratory.

Compaq said it has established a center in Nashua, N.H., to study grid computing.

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