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For some, new 'grid' group does not compute

Intel, HP and others unveil a group to promote grid computing. But some wonder if another such organization makes sense, and so far, biggies IBM and Microsoft haven't signed on.

A number of computer industry heavyweights joined forces on Tuesday to promote so-called grid computing in large organizations, but question marks hang over the effort.

The new organization is called the Enterprise Grid Alliance, and its founding members include Oracle, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, NEC, Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu Siemens Computers.

The alliance aims to speed the adoption of grid computing, which refers to linking pools of computers, storage devices and networks so that organizations can pull from different resources, based on changing business needs. The new group said it is working with existing consortia and standards bodies, and may develop its own specifications.

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arrow The EGA looks to foster grid adoption at the enterprise level
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"With our pragmatic approach focusing on the enterprise, EGA is uniquely positioned to deliver near-term, tangible benefits," Donald Deutsch, the organization's president, said in a statement. Deutsch is also vice president for standards strategy and architecture at Oracle.

Deutsch's claim aside, the new group faces challenges--not the least of which is the fact that IBM, Microsoft and SAP are noticeably absent from the EGA's roster. Each company plays a major role in the corporate computing arena, and Big Blue and Microsoft are sponsors of a different group.

"The absence of IBM, Platform Computing, Avaki, Verari (Systems) and others is suspicious," Jonathan Eunice, an analyst at researcher Illuminata, said in an e-mail interview.

Deutsch acknowledged the gap in a press conference Tuesday.

"Yes, we've been talking with IBM. Yes, we've been talking to Microsoft. Yes, we've been talking to SAP," he said. "We've encouraged all of them to come to the table."

IBM has been a major advocate of . "We're in the process of evaluating the goals and mission of the organization," an IBM spokesman said Tuesday. "We'll make a decision, as more information becomes available."

Another issue the alliance faces is whether its work will duplicate the efforts of existing groups such as the Global Grid Forum or simply muddy the waters. So far, explanations of the grid idea and of related concepts, such as transforming computing into a utilitylike service, have been a bit murky.

Hewlett-Packard, for example, has struggled to define what it means when it talks about connecting computer systems to business processes in its vision of an "Adaptive Enterprise."

In a statement, the Global Grid Forum hinted that the EGA may not have been needed. "As a global forum, GGF has the representation, established venues and processes in place to address a comprehensive set of issues, including standards and lessons learned in deployment. Enterprise Grid Alliance has elected to establish a separate organization to tackle issues regarding grid deployment in the enterprise," the group said on its Web site.

Still, the forum pledged to collaborate with the newcomer, saying it "will work with EGA to understand their objectives and plans with the goal of sustaining the momentum of the companies and organizations working together in the grid community."

IBM and Microsoft's research division are major sponsors of the Global Grid Forum.

Asked about how the EGA fits in with the forum, Deutsch emphasized his group's limited focus. "Global Grid Forum has a much broader charter than EGA," he said. The EGA is not concerned with scientific computing or academic research. It will initially focus on applications such as so-called enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management programs.

But Illuminata's Eunice questioned the usefulness of the new organization.

"It's not really clear, on a practical basis, what EGA is going to do. The fundamental grid protocols, standards and reference implementations are already evolving nicely under the aegis of the Global Grid Forum and the Globus Alliance," he said. "If the EGA really accomplishes something specific, good for them--but what I fear is that EGA is primarily a marketing organization." Eunice also said most of the EGA founders are not particular leaders in the grid computing arena.

Another effort that's designed to help computer gear from different companies work better together is the DCML Organization. That group formed last year to create a Data Center Markup Language standard that will enable computing gear from multiple providers to share important operational information. The DCML Organization also suffers from a dearth of prominent members. Although its founders include major technology companies Electronic Data Systems and Computer Associates International, it lacks giants such as IBM, Sun Microsystems and Microsoft.