November 15, 2004
Large companies are always in the spotlight, and their motives are always questioned. However, in an interview with GRIDtoday, IBM's vice president of Grid computing, Al Bunshaft, makes it perfectly clear that IBM's motives in creating the World Community Grid were all about helping mankind and showcasing the power of Grid computing.
GRIDtoday: What role have you taken thus far in regard to the World Community Grid?
AL BUNSHAFT: Through our work in Grid computing and the success of other similar public Grid projects in both the U.S. and Europe, IBM recognized the opportunity to establish something of a much larger scale than has been attempted in the past. We took the initiative to develop this concept, select the technology, solicit the right partnerships and alliances, and finally to donate the equipment and skills needed to host the Grid.
Gt: What led IBM to not only sponsor, but also create and attach its name to such massive, high-profile Grid project?
BUNSHAFT: Quite simply, we are convinced that this effort can help mankind by researching problems that could only access this kind of computing scale via Grid technology. It is also an excellent showcase for Grid technology. Not only to promote it in the industry, but to demonstrate IBM's commitment to the technology.
Gt: How has Grid evolved over time? Specifically, from early Grid projects like SETI@home to the launch of the World Community Grid?
BUNSHAFT: Rather than retrace the history of Grid computing, I would like to offer this observation. Two important things are taking place that are making Grid a key technology in not only scientific, but also in commercial computing. First, the industry has formed a concerted effort via the Global Grid Forum (GGF) to establish open industry standards for Grid. This will make Grid related tools more widely available and make the promise of true heterogeneous interoperability a reality. Second, the increasing capabilities of software for things like scheduling, provision and orchestration, workload management, and information management, all in a Grid environment are making the technology more accessible and more applicable to commercial workloads. Real business value is being garnered by applying Grid technology. New levels of operational efficiency are clearly at hand. I believe that these are the key reasons that Grid is bursting onto the scene in the IT industry.
Gt: How much will the collaboration with Grid.org help with the Human Proteome Folding Project?
BUNSHAFT: Our work with Grid.org in 2003 on the smallpox project helped prove out that the basic technology was solid, secure and reliable. We did rigorous testing for its use inside IBM and gained significant confidence in the use of a Grid agent to attack large scale problems. For the World Community Grid, we are using Grid.org to help seed capacity into the Grid and many of the PCs running the Grid.org agent will apply their power to the Human Proteome Folding project. This will get us off to a faster start than had we started from the ground floor. I am very pleased with our partnership with United Devices and we have significant confidence in their technology and it's use for this project.
Gt: Can you comment on why IBM chose United Devices to power the World Community Grid?
BUNSHAFT: United Devices has been a key partner in IBM's Grid efforts for sometime. As I mentioned above, we have significant confidence in their technology and used it in the very successful smallpox project in 2003.
Gt: How long will the Human Proteome Folding Project run for, and are there any future projects already lined up?
BUNSHAFT: There is no end date identified from the Human Proteome project at this time. Future projects will be evaluated and chosen by the WCG advisory board. We have a process for screening those applications and we welcome submissions from scientists and researchers around the world. We expect the WCG advisory board will accept approximately three to five projects a year.
Gt: What kind of potential does IBM see for the World Community Grid to affect change not only within the scientific community, but in society as a whole?
BUNSHAFT: We think the potential is reflected in the types of projects we are soliciting. The WCG is designed to assist in projects that have the potential to yield significant progress in grand-scale issues like fighting disease, searching for answers to water and food shortages, and forecasting natural disasters.
Gt: What guarantees can you make to those contemplating putting their PCs the Grid in regard to any security or performance issues?
BUNSHAFT: The Grid agent we are using has been used in other public projects. There are no security issues beyond those normally encountered by anyone accessing the Internet. The World Community Grid does not introduce any new security exposures or risks.
Gt: With IBM endorsing such a large-scale Grid, do you think other major vendors will look to launch similar projects? Are you inviting competitors to offer support for the World Community Grid?
BUNSHAFT: I cannot comment on other companies plans, but I can say that we certainly hope to everyone donates their idle computing power to this effort. Ultimately, this effort is not about IBM or our partners. This is about a simple way to help mankind and truly contribute to our society.
Gt: What does this project say about IBM's commitment to Grid computing?
BUNSHAFT: I think that this is just the most recent example of IBM's commitment to Grid. A key part of the IBM On Demand strategy is to build and deliver an On Demand Operating Environment. This infrastructure will enable a more flexible, responsive and variable environment to enable dynamic, competitive businesses. Grid technology is a key part of our efforts in this area. There is a long list of examples of our efforts in this area. I encourage people to go to www.ibm.com/Grid to learn more.
Gt: How does this project affect IBM's position in the Grid market?
BUNSHAFT: While I do think that IBM is uniquely positioned to support a Grid project of this scale, and that this is a great example of the capabilities of Grid, WCG is about putting technology to work on the grand scale challenges I described earlier. It's not about marketshare or trumping our competitors.
Gt: Feel free to add any additional comments you might have on topics that haven't been covered.
BUNSHAFT: I encourage everyone to go to www.worldcommunitygrid.org, download the software, and put their PC to work for the good of the world.
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