Tech Industry

Oracle plots grid computing consortium

An executive with the database software maker says the company is building a consortium of industry players to help create standards for commercial use of grid computing.

Database-software maker Oracle is building a consortium of industry players to help create standards for commercial use of grid computing, an Oracle executive said Wednesday.

Addressing the crowd gathered at this week's OracleWorld conference in San Francisco, Chuck Rozwat, executive vice president for database server technologies at Oracle, said the new organization would help generate guidelines for businesses hoping to tap into the promise of grid computing.

"We're forming a commercial grid consortium so that, together with various members of the industry, we can define standards that really make up APIs (application programming interfaces) and functions that become part of the commercial grid computing infrastructure," Rozwat said.

Grids are essentially collections of computers or computer networks that have been connected to allow for sharing of processing power, storage, applications and data. Oracle says that businesses have invested in computing systems that are massively underutilized and that could be more efficiently used to create powerful processing capabilities. The company's two largest rivals, IBM and Microsoft, are also touting the strategy as a way for businesses to increase their computing power in a more cost-effective manner.

In a briefing with reporters, Rozwat said the Oracle-led consortium would not compete with existing industry efforts such as the Global Grid Forum (GGF), which it sees as more closely aligned with academic goals. Rozwat said the organization would focus specifically on the needs of businesses working with grid computing, in particular companies in the biotechnology, financial services and health care industries.

An Oracle representative said the company is in the process of finalizing agreements with a number of players from the three above-mentioned industries that are planning to participate in the consortium. There is no immediate schedule for when the group will be officially launched, the source said.

Industry watchers lauded the effort, indicating that the GGF has done little to help drive grid computing into commercial markets. Ahmar Abbas, analyst for research company Grid Technology Partners, called the move "timely" and likened the current era in development of grid computing to the growth of the Internet in the late 1990s.

"We used to say that academics had their hands on the Internet for 20 years and all they did was exchange e-mail," Abbas said. "That's not to discount what groups like GGF can do to help grid computing move forward, but with its introduction into the commercial space, you would think there is potential for grid computing applications to take off."

Abbas said he feels the two groups can exist in a complementary manner and that it would be critical to get other software makers involved in similar efforts.

"You can build the best infrastructure in the world, but without applications it is pointless," Abbas said.

Abbas expects the Oracle consortium will first tackle the process of creating standardized definitions for building applications. The analyst said the group would likely reference some of the work being done in the Web services arena by organizations such as the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Other near-term goals might include creating standards for grid computing security and data access, Abbas said.