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Excel spreadsheets tap into grid power

Grid software maker Platform Computing releases a module that enables Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet program to use the power of a grid computing system.

Platform Computing has released a software module that enables Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet software to tap into the power of a grid computing system, the company said Tuesday.

The Excel adapter is now a standard part of Platform's Symphony Suite, software the Toronto-based company sells to join groups of computers together into a single pool of processing power.

Platform is aiming the Excel adapter software at financial services companies, where analysts often must perform high-speed calculations such as calculating the risks incurred by a particular change to a stock portfolio.

The software moves a common desktop software package one step closer to the widespread but still-distant notion of computing power that will be much like today's electrical power grid: something that's always available for those who need a little more computing capacity. This idea is closely related to the utility computing concept that's under development in various forms at many of the largest computing hardware and software companies.

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Today's grid movement focuses on the finite task of linking groups of computers that span administrative boundaries--for example, among collaborating universities or between a company and a partner that provides extra computing capacity during a peak demand period.

While grids in use today are currently installed at academic or government supercomputing sites, IBM, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and others are striving to make them more commercially useful as well.

Platform's grid customers in the financial services market include Fidelity Investments, Deutsche Bank, J.P. Morgan Chase, Societe Generale and TD Canada Trust.