By Leigh Howe

Internet – the next generation.  When you here the word “grid”, you immediately think of the grid of electrical power.  Take the same concept to the computer and the Internet, and you come up with “grid computing”.  Grid computing is a network of linked computers that share power, storage, applications, and other resources over the Internet.  The power and speed this brings to computing will allow scientists to perform some of the most demanding tasks on the research horizon – from problems in protein folding that will form the foundations for new drugs to analyzing weather data so quickly to enable real-time forecasts down to the kilometer.  Grid computing advocates are predicting an explosion of grid activity that may make the Internet boom of the 1990’s look small.

TeraGrid.  TeraGrid is a prime example of grid computing. Funded be the National Science foundation to the tune of $53 million, the TeraGrid is a multi-year effort to build and deploy the world’s largest fastest, most comprehensive, distributed infrastructure for open scientific research.  The TeraGrid, which will be online in late 2002, will be able to handle more than 13.6 trillion calculations per seconds and will have the ability to access, store and shard more than 450 trillion bytes of information.

Plugged in.  Several heavy hitters in the computer industry are taking notice of grid computing, with the most prominent player being IBM.  They have been contracted to build TeraGrid, and have recently announced that would produce “grid-enabled” server systems.  IBM has already linked its own R&D labs around the world.  IBM is not alone though.  As you would expect, other major players in the computing industry are on board including Sun Microsystems, Compaq, NEC and Hitachi.  Microsoft engaged in a contract earlier this year to translate grid computing programming tools to Windows XP.  Also, a promising development is the growing acceptance of open-source software tools as the standard for grid computing.  

Is there enough juice?  How and when the grid computing will emerge is yet to be seen.  Will businesses incorporate the grid?  Who will lead them there?  Just as the spreadsheet drove the growth of personal computing, what application will drive the growth of grid computing?  Stay tuned.  The demand for seamless collaboration and real-time speed will propel grid computing into the mainstream before long.

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