February 21, 2005
Romancing the Grid
Just to put a time reference to this article, it's Feb. 14th, 2005 --
Valentine's Day. Flowers, chocolates, dinner dates, champagne
and, for the very romantic among us, the day that marks the halfway
point of the first calendar year quarter.
2005 is underway.
As an analyst, I enjoy the business challenges of strategic planning
and business forecasting, but I deplore the commentary of
prediction. I can't tell you how many people I have spoken with
who have made the same comment: "2005 has to be a better year than
2004." So, is that a prediction, or just wishful thinking?
Speaking as a pragmatist who has survived close to 30 years of
technology changes and countless predictions of life-changing
discoveries, yet is still a technology romantic at heart, I have my own
view of 2005 that I would hesitate to label as a prediction. It's
too obvious to call it a prediction. This is the year for
romancing the Grid.
So, here it is ... Valentine's Day. Anyone ready to make a commitment?
Even as children, the words of the Valentine's cards we sent, and the
choice of the card itself, indicated the level of our seriousness and,
possibly, our commitment. The same applies today. Courting
follows a certain ritual and progresses at a pace that just needs to
take its own course. Any organization thinking it can step onto
the Grid computing dance floor and romance some anxious partners into a
one night stand is in for a rude awakening. This is a love
interest that is going to take time to unfold.
Let there be no doubt: engagements in the Grid computing space this
year will have all the excitement, mystery and potential romance of a
So, where does that leave us?
It's only human nature to sit back and ponder the possibilities before
stepping deeply into a relationship. We all do it. We
imagine the best possible times. We picture the romantic
moments. We reach out and try to feel the happiness and security
of a fulfilling relationship. Undoubtedly, like we've seen in the Grid
computing space during 2004, there's a period of anticipation and
eagerness that precedes the courtship phase.
And that's where a majority of the Grid computing adopters are today.
The Courtship Phase
In order to successfully pass through the courtship phase, there's one
basic rule that stands the test of time: There must be two
I've spoken with a number of executives over the past few weeks about
their views (not predictions) on the adoption curve of Grid computing
in enterprise environments.
Early attractions are blooming.
In our personal lives, there's probably not a more romantic story to
tell than the "love at first sight" experience. It does
happen, but it's rare. What's more common is the
experience of first attraction, followed by determination of mutual
interest, the dating and courtship phase to see if there's strong
compatibility and, finally, thoughts and actions that might lead to
long-term romance. I can hear the violins in the background right
now. Call me a sentimental guy, but all this business talk makes
me feel like a young kid again. The courtship that goes on
between corporate bed partners has all the earmarks of the best
romantic novels. On one end of the spectrum is a "marriage made
in heaven," and at the other end the courtship goes on for years,
only to end up in a wrecked and tattered relationship where the
one-time lovers part ways -- sometimes as bitter enemies. There's
always risk in romance.
But, how exciting those days of discovery can be.
2005 is a year of courtship. This is the year when relationships
will be tested, romances will flourish and long-term partners will be
selected. Bring on the flowers, chocolates and
champagne -- it's going to be an exciting year. There's no
reason to be frustrated. The ecosystem is starting to bloom like
the first flowers of spring.
You'd have to be living in a cave to not hear the daily buzz that's
part of this landscape, like a swarm of restless bees ready to move as
an intimidating force, but not quite sure of the exact direction. For
some reason, the thought of Valentine's flowers -- roses -- made me
think of bees.
A lucrative business deal, and the courtship of a long-term partner,
brings the possibility of being stung. That's just the way it
is. If you're not willing to take the risk, you might never reap
the rewards or feel the rush of mutual romance. We must take risks in business and
romance. We must open up our emotions and
put ourselves in the position of being vulnerable. However, it's a
process, and it's not meant to be rushed.
Remove the hype -- forget about the promises that can't be fulfilled -- and set some realistic expectations.
If we're all honest with each other and set realistic expectations,
fewer people will be disappointed and we'll see a lot less frustration.
So, while just about every player in the Grid computing space today has
announced some form of engagement with multiple partners, the bigger
picture market engagement process -- the courtship phase between most
companies -- is still young. A few hearts will be broken in 2005,
and few romances will flourish. That's the sign of a market
starting to mature. But, to emphasize my point one more time,
some things in life just can't be rushed. Those looking for
instant gratification from Grid computing are getting frustrated.
Of 47 senior IT execs responding to viewpoint questions on the Grid
adoption curve, 98 percent were "positive" to "very positive" that their
organizations will find economic and productivity benefits from some
implementation of Grid computing. They are ready for romance.
Yet, if I had to select one word that describes the overriding
sentiment among those I've talked to, I'd have to say it is "frustration."
Frustration with the rate of enterprise IT adoption is somewhat
understandable. Expectations have been poorly set and, in many cases,
based on exaggerated claims and wishful thinking.
Perhaps part of the problem is that companies are trying to shoehorn
"Grid" into being a solution for every IT challenge out there?
Those who are skeptical about the impact of Grid computing are clearly
outnumbered -- dramatically. To continue to pose the argument that Grid
computing has yet to prove itself is a slanted argument. True, the
commercial adoption and implementation of business-critical
enterprise Grids is not yet happening. There are still too many
holes in the standards, middleware, security layers and even in the
attitude of corporate decision makers. But the capability and
potential ROI of Grid computing has been proven many times over.
I personally can't remember the last time I have seen such an
overwhelming coalition of industry forces working together to bring a
computing paradigm to market.
A better understanding might come by taking a look at the bigger picture
and seeing that Grid computing is just one element -- one component of
an enterprise IT romance that could make a best selling novel.
On the heels of GlobusWORLD, a technical forum that provides a nice
opportunity for courtship, a milestone VIP Grid summit worth noting
will be taking place as the science and technology ministers of the
Latin American countries gather in Costa Rica to talk about the
potential economic impact of Grid computing in their countries.
Spurred by the melodic strings of Intel, Sun and a few others, romance
-- as one would expect in Latin America -- is clearly in the air. We
can expect to see some beautiful relationships forming here.
And part of the agenda will be a discussion of Grid computing as part
of the much bigger enterprise IT picture.
We're at the dawn of an important convergence in the world of IT
computing infrastructures. A number of industry leaders have
started talking about their visions for the Service Oriented Enterprise
(SOE) and the infrastructure enabled by Service Oriented Architecture
Grid is just one part, albeit a very important part, of the big picture when it comes to building a Service Oriented Enterprise.
Intel's view is to position Grid computing as one element or component
of the much bigger SOE infrastructure. Intel's SOE initiative,
with a significant emphasis on Grid computing, has been gaining steady
momentum among channel partners and a growing number of enterprise
Organizations are coming to see that Grid computing enables some
important capabilities such as identifying and virtualizing resources --
an important element in creating a functional SOA/SOE environment.
According to Sam Charrington, vice president of product marketing and
management at Tsunami Research, Grid computing as it is traditionally
defined is simply not suitable for the vast majority of applications
forming the core of today's IT environments. Charrington believes
that emerging technologies such as Tsunami's approach to "hive
computing" will prove to be more adaptable in the world of SOE.
In general, we tend to agree that approaches to autonomic computing,
automatic recognition and allocation of resources are indicative of
the next wave -- a converged, service-oriented infrastructure in which Grid computing plays a major role.
Another example of positioning Grid computing as part of the bigger
picture comes from Oracle. Oracle has been at the forefront of
evangelizing Grid computing while also looking at the bigger picture.
Oracle's 10g Release 2 is based on a Service Oriented Architecture
(SOA) with support for a number of enterprise Grid manageability
And hats off to Sun. The Sun Grid utility offering is an
ambitious initiative that could potentially leapfrog the industry to
driving us that much faster into consumer Grid adoption. It's no
small task, and it's certainly not for the feint of heart. But
then again, when has that ever stopped Sun?
Overall, I believe it helps greatly in understanding the impact of Grid
computing when we don't try to measure the adoption rate of Grid on its
own, but rather place it in the context of the much bigger picture of
where enterprise computing is going over the next two to five years.
February 2005 -- many of us have already made the mental transition from
dreading the cold, dreary and less mobile days of winter to
anticipating the rejuvenation of spring. For some of us, the
thought of spring being right around the corner brings hope of freedom,
discovery, playtime and even romance. For others, romance takes a
back burner, giving way to preparing lists of household chores to be
done as part of the big spring cleaning effort that's ingrained into
our society. Such is life. If only we all felt the same way
at the same time.
We've moved from the academic-only Grids and we're about to embark into the world of enterprise Grids.
In this world, there's definitely strength in numbers.
As many companies jockey for position in this emerging market, we can
expect to see all the drama of some great romances. As 2005 plays out, it looks like
we'll have to work through the courtship phase, some serious dating,
some storybook weddings and some ugly divorces, with all the painful
litigation of acquisitions and divestitures.
Stay tuned to this column in future issues of GRIDtoday as we dig into the
business impact of Grid computing, watch the ecosystem emerge, track the losers
and winners, learn more about the courtships and travel together on this
exciting journey during 2005 -- the year of Romancing the Grid.
About Mike Bernhardt
Mike Bernhardt is CEO of Grid Strategies Inc., a niche market analyst,
consulting and advisory group offering guidance, counsel, and business
and market planning services for clients of all sizes working in and
around the emerging Grid computing industry.
Founded by HPC industry veteran Mike Bernhardt, Grid Strategies
utilizes a deep network of contacts throughout academia, government,
technical and enterprise computing environments to provide a balanced
perspective with unique insight and opinion to help our clients make
intelligent, business-critical decisions.