IBM releases grid product bundles

Big Blue's "grid" products are designed to help businesses get used to the idea of supercomputers assembled from large numbers of networked smaller machines.

IBM has released several products designed so that specific industries can get started with "grid" computing, networking large numbers of smaller machines into a single supercomputer.

The products combine IBM computers with software from smaller grid companies to form products geared for companies in financial services, life sciences, governments and automotive and aerospace design, IBM said Monday.

Brokerage Charles Schwab and investment banking firm Wachovia are among the customers for the new grid products, IBM said.

Grid computing links numerous computers--sometimes several high-end machines such as IBM's p690 "Regatta" and sometimes lower-end machines such as ordinary desktop PCs--into a collective supercomputer. Special software controls details such as how jobs are shared among these computers, which jobs get priority, what computers are available or overloaded, or where information for the project is stored.

Many of the underpinnings of the grid software movement are open-source packages, including the Globus Toolkit for interconnecting grids and the GridEngine software released by Sun Microsystems. Open-source software--the best-known example being the Linux operating system--may be freely seen, modified and redistributed.

IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and several other companies are embracing open-source projects as ways of pooling development resources around software that is in effect an industry standard.

As part of the 10 products announced Monday, IBM has partnerships with five companies offering grid management software: Platform Computing, DataSynapse, Avaki, Entropia and UnitedDevices.

For government customers, IBM's Information Access Grid product lets computer users effectively pool diverse databases and simplify the retrieval of information through use of a unified interface, Big Blue said.

For automotive and aerospace customers, IBM is offering one grid product that lets engineers pool computers performing calculations and another that lets designers from different organizations or companies more easily collaborate and share work.

Life sciences researchers will be able to buy the Analytics Acceleration Grid, for speeding up calculations about genes or proteins used for tasks such as finding new drugs, and the Information Accessibility Grid, for sharing data even when it's not accessible through standard access methods.

IBM also is offering the financial services industry an Analytics Acceleration product for speeding up trading operations. An IT Optimization Grid product will help customers draw used computers and storage systems into grid computing efforts.

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