April 24, 2006
A Peek into Micron's Grid Infrastructure
In this interview, Brooklin Gore,
a senior fellow at Micron Technology who will be presenting during an EGA
User Forum webcast on May 4, discusses the history of Micron's Grid
initiatives, and gives some candid advice to potential adopters. Says
Gore: "Grid computing technology may not be perfect
today, but it is certainly good enough for enterprises to extract
significant value now."
GRIDtoday: You'll be taking part in the upcoming EGA User Forum webcast on May 4. What will you be discussing, and what can attendees expect to learn, in that forum?
BROOKLIN GORE: I'll be discussing Micron's central governance and distributed management approach to Grid computing; several general purpose Grid applications that will be of interest to any enterprise user; push and pull application models; and "Follow-the-moon" job scheduling.
Gt: For readers who aren't familiar with Micron, can you give some background information on the company and its products?
GORE: Micron is one of the world's leading providers of advanced semiconductor solutions. Micron's DRAM and flash components are used in today's most advanced computing, networking and communications products, including computers, workstations, servers, cell phones, wireless devices, digital cameras and gaming systems. Micron also provides CMOS image sensor solutions to the handset camera, digital still camera and PC video camera markets.
Gt: Can you give me a little background on Micron's history with Grid computing? When did you begin using the technology and what led to the decision to implement it?
GORE: We started with our first production application to do wafer defect analysis in June of 2001. We were interested in better utilizing our IT infrastructure investment, improving application reliability, availability and scalability and solving some challenging, compute-intensive problems.
Gt: What does Micron's Grid infrastructure look like now? How many grids have you deployed, how many processors are linked to them, what kind of middleware are you using, etc.?
GORE: We have 11 "pools" (individual grids, all connected via a LAN or WAN) comprising over 11,000 processors at seven sites in four countries. We selected the Condor High Throughput Computing system because it ran on all the platforms we were interested in, met our configuration needs, was widely used and open source yet well supported.
Gt: What kinds of applications is Micron running on its Grid infrastructure? What kind of process was there in deciding which apps to Grid-enable, and how long did it take to re-write them?
GORE: In general we run manufacturing, engineering, reporting, software development, security and script-engine applications on our grid. We generally selected applications that needed a performance, reliability or scalability boost and that were fairly easy to run on a grid (i.e. parallelize). Some apps "just run" on the grid, some we've tweaked over time to optimize for the grid and some where developed from scratch with the grid in mind. Of course, it takes a little extra time to Grid-enable an existing application, but it has not been onerous. Developing an application for the grid from scratch adds no significant development time, although testing and debugging Grid applications is more difficult to the remote nature of the execution.
Gt: What kinds of challenges or obstacles did you face in deploying grids? How did you overcome them?
GORE: Well, as most maturing technologist come to realize, people are way more difficult to deal with than technology. So, we spend a considerable time on educating system managers, developers and business users about the value proposition grid provides. We leverage quite a few "shared" (i.e. desktop) systems, so we've also taken care to educate desktop users why and how we use their systems' idle time.
Gt: Micron is among a small group of end-user members in the EGA. What led to the company joining the EGA, and how has it been working in this capacity?
GORE: In general, we want to ensure Grid standards efforts and Grid vendors are doing things that will be in Micron's best interest. As large enterprise application vendors (i.e. Oracle, SAP, etc.) start adding Grid functionality, we want to ensure that functionality is compatible with our general purpose grid and is maximially interoperable. The last thing we want is four or five different grid systems running on our infrastructure. There is also value in networking with other Grid enthusiasts, and in sharing best practices, challenges and successes.
Gt: How important will it be for the ultimate success of Grid technologies for more end-users to join and participate with the EGA?
GORE: On a scale of 1-10, probably an 8. I think more end-user participation will accelerate the overall process as we help vendors and standards bodies prioritize their effort on key Grid value propositions and ensure grid interoperability.
Gt: How important is it for end-users to speak publicly about their use of grids (as Micron is doing with this webcast) in order to illustrate the effectiveness of Grid technologies and help grow the market?
GORE: Well, obviously from our participation, we feel it is important. A key reason is that often, large enterprises are fairly cautious with technology. The more folks see other people doing it, they will be more comfortable doing it. And I think it is important to share general use cases (without giving away any key competitive advantages) that demonstrate a more general applicability for Grid applications than many folks may realize from what they see out of academia. For example, it's easier for a car company to see what a semiconductor company did with Grid and say, "Hey, we could use that too," than it is from some particle physics grid application coming out of a university.
Gt: What can enterprise grid users, in general, take from Micron's experiences with Grid computing?
GORE: Grid computing technology may not be perfect today, but it is certainly good enough for enterprises to extract significant value now. It is not difficult technology to deploy, nor is it difficult to identify and deploy value-adding Grid applications. Grid applications can be a lot more general purpose that most people realize.
About Brooklin Gore
Brooklin Gore is a senior fellow with Micron Technology Inc., a
manufacturer of semiconductor products including DRAM, flash and image
sensors. Gore has been researching and implementing enterprise Grid
technologies for the past four years to create Micron's global Grid
infrastructure, which runs over 20 production applications today. In
Gore's 17 years with Micron, he has served as product engineer,
computer-aided design group manager, network manager and general
manager of Micron's Internet Services Division. Gore has been issued
several U.S. patents and is a senior member of the IEEE. He holds
Bachelor of Science degrees in computer science and electrical
engineering from the University of Idaho and a Masters of Science in
computer science from the National Technological University.