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IBM teams with software makers on grid

New software applications could move grid out of the esoteric realm and into mainstream business.

Hoping to broaden the appeal of grid computing, IBM and a handful of software makers said Wednesday that they have retooled their business applications to be grid-ready.

Grid computing, in which the processing workload is spread across several machines to tackle tasks more efficiently, has often been used in academic and specialized commercial settings.

But rather than esoteric scientific programs, the IBM partners sell mainstream business applications. They include Citrix's MetaFrame software for running desktop applications on server computers and business reporting software from Cognos and Actuate.


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The new business applications are the first fruits of an IBM effort, launched earlier this year, to get its application provider partners to "grid-enable" their products. As part of this effort, Big Blue provided technical resources and guidance on how to best take advantage of grid-based software available on the marketplace. Other application companies to have completed the grid compliance work are Engineous Software and Sefas, as well as Abaqus and Fluent which sell specialized software for completing complex calculations on a computing grid.

IBM expects other companies to make their applications grid-ready, said Steve Gordon, grid alliance executive at IBM. The company hopes that by providing the grid-enabled applications, it can demonstrate real-world uses for the technology and drive sales of its hardware, software and services.

"The more we can get commercial-level workloads on the grid, that will feed customer demand. It's like the early days of Linux--we had to force feed some (customers) initially, but when the big names came out, everyone came up alongside," said Gordon, referring to IBM's efforts in the 1990s to promote the Linux operating system.

IBM is heavily promoting the grid concept and working to recruit as many developers as possible to make their programs grid-ready. Last month, the company launched a program that gives developers free access to grid systems managed by IBM.

Citrix does not plan to sell a separate "grid" version of its MetaFrame product, said Chris Fleck, managing director of strategic alliances at Citrix. But the company has tested MetaFrame to work with grid software from DataSynapse, which helps distribute the computing workload across a network.

The company will test Citrix software to work with other grid management software and provide customers recommendations on how to best implement grids. Grids can supply more cost-effective back-up and load-balancing systems by tapping into the unused processing power of several servers, Fleck said.

"You don't have to have all of your resources run on a dedicated, particular server. You can have it run across many servers and it's transparent to the user," Fleck said.

Cognos, a maker of business intelligence software, has ensured that its ReportNet program can work with grid versions of IBM's WebSphere server software and IBM hardware. By using a grid, companies can spread out the processing of data analysis tasks, said Rupert Bonham-Carter, director of global strategic alliances at Cognos.

IBM's Gordon said that data analysis applications are well suited for grid computing, because the processing chores can be done in batches and do not involve a high volume of transactions.