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Grid software gets business connection

Developers of the Globus Toolkit program release an alpha version of their software that incorporates Web services technology.

Programmers writing the software underpinnings for "grid" supercomputing software have begun an overhaul to make the software more business-friendly.

Developers of the program--open-source software used to link groups of servers and storage systems into a single pool of computing power--have released an alpha version of their software that incorporates Web services technology, the group said Monday. Web services are a host of technologies sweeping the computing industry, standardizing next-generation Internet processes such as advertising what capabilities a computer has or governing who has permission to use a certain computers on the network.

The Globus Toolkit has used its own standards, but developers are moving to Web services standards so the software will more easily integrate with business computing infrastructure, said Ian Foster, one of the three lead developers behind the toolkit.

"It aligns very clearly with what's going on in the industry," Foster said in an interview Tuesday. "It provides the power of Web services, in terms of standard ways of describing and discovering and publishing services on the network, with the power of grid computing."

The move is a concrete part of a plan to bridge the academic supercomputing realm with the business computing. In a related move, Hewlett-Packard announced Monday it has written software than can link grids and the computing infrastructure governed by HP's Utility Data Center system.

The Globus change not only will help business customers' use the toolkit, but also will help increase the number of developers working on the software, Foster said. Current contributors to the project include IBM, Sun Microsystems, HP, Microsoft, , Hitachi, NEC, Fujitsu, and Entropia.

Foster is associate division director for mathematics and computer science at Argonne National Laboratory. Other leaders of the Globus effort, which began in 1995, are Carl Kesselman, professor of computer science at the University of Southern California and director of USC's Center for Grid Technologies, and Steve Tuecke, lead architect of the Argonne Distributed Systems Laboratory.

The programmers hope to release a final version of the Globus Toolkit in June or July, Foster said.

Grid computing unites pools of servers, storage systems and networks into one large system. Globus Toolkit handles connections between different groups of computers, working in conjunction with software such as Platform Computing's Load Sharing Facility or Sun's GridEngine that assigns tasks to computers within a group.

The new features for Globus come through an effort called the Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA).