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IBM, Sun warm to distributed computing

Big Blue partners with a start-up whose software harnesses the unused computing capability of ordinary networked computers. Sun Microsystems backs a related effort.

IBM has begun a partnership with Entropia, a start-up whose software is used to harness the unused computing capability of ordinary networked computers, while Sun Microsystems is backing a related effort.

IBM will evaluate Entropia's distributed computing software as part of Big Blue's "grid" computing effort begun earlier this year, the companies said Monday.

Grid computing is a term that originated in academic circles to describe shared networks of everything from PCs to supercomputers that collectively tackle supercomputing tasks, often governed by software such as the "toolkit" from Globus Project.

Globus, which produces open-source software, is gaining momentum in the distributed computing world. The organization is getting help from IBM, and Platform Computing will sell support for Globus' toolkit. Entropia also has started incorporating the toolkit into its own products.

Globus and Sun, an IBM rival, announced an alliance as well. Sun will help boost the toolkit, and both organizations will work on interfaces to join the toolkit with Sun's open-source Grid Engine software.

Sun also announced the University of Edinburgh's Edinburgh Parallel Computing Center will develop grid and high-performance computing methods, and the University of Houston will create a campus grid for geological applications such as seeking oil reservoirs. The University of Houston is using two higher-end Sun Fire 6800 servers and 13 lower-end Sun Fire V880 servers, replacing an IBM system.

Entropia and IBM said they've signed a memorandum of understanding under which IBM will evaluate Entropia's grid technology and both companies will look for customers that could benefit from joint expertise. It's the first step in a grid alliance, the companies said.

Also on Monday, IBM said it has released a version of the Globus Toolkit for its servers running Linux and AIX, IBM's version of Unix.

The announcements were made at the SC2001 supercomputing conference in Denver.