Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Waiting for Gridot

Over the last months, I have morphed from thinking about applications in terms of processes and threads to an even more parallized form of computing. That is, I use the word grid about a hundred times a day: utility computing grid, grid computing, distributed resource managers (DRM), shared virtual memory systems, job management and placements software and so on.

Sun Grid Rack with Sun Fire v20z compute nodes

Initially I spend a lot of time trying to understand the many aspects of grid computing. Next I distilled it into two definitions which intended to make it easier for partners to understand what we ment with grid. In a narrow definition, it came down to sharing (heterogenous) compute resources. However, grid was also being used in a much broader context of the entire infrastructure running, managing, provisioning, loadbalancing the heterogenous resources upon which more loosely coupled and parallelized applications were scheduled. (The fun is only starting.)

Many presentations derailed on the slide trying to define grid. Everybody seemed to have their spin on grid and wanted to have the nuance of their definition heard. Only few realized that most of us were all in agreement and were talking about the same thing: the sharing of distributed resources. As a donkey doesn't hit his feet twice on the same rock, I avoid grid definition discussions and omit the slide from my presentations.

A colleague, who spent the last decade trolling around in the world of grid, said it best:
There is a play by the Nobel laureate Irish absurd playwriter Samuel Beckett, called "Waiting for Godot." Two homeless people have a dialogue in a park, while waiting for someone called Godot. The play ends and Godot never arrives.
Paraphrasing Beckett, [one could use the] "Waiting for Grid-ot" metaphor. If we believe Gridot will arrive some day, we will make many computers work better and better together.
Gridot will arrive when the entire planet will be managed as one computer. We replace the Grid definition with our new faith in Gridot! :-)

Oh, and what might this have to do with flanders you might ask? Recently the university of Antwerp created Belgium's fastest computer: the CalcUA - a grid cluster of Sun Fire V20z - at the University of Antwerp:


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