What is grid computing?

Grid computing is about utilizing the idle resources of computers connected to a network. IBM defines it perhaps most succinctly: Grid computing applies resources from many computers on a network—at the same time—to a single problem. The development of the World Wide Web has revolutionized the way we think about and access information. We really don’t think twice about logging onto the web and getting information on just about any topic imaginable. What the web has done for information, grid computing aims to do for calculations. Grid computing really is the next logical evolution of the internet.

The Internet started with TCP/IP and networks; then came communication via e-mail, followed by the exchange of information with the World Wide Web. Next comes grid computing, the sharing of actual computing resources such as memory, storage, and processing power. It’s almost bewildering to imagine what kinds of applications could be developed if access to distributed supercomputers, mass storage, and massive storage was as easy as accessing the Internet. So there are multiple ways of looking at grid computing: as a way to connect the computing power of all the big computers and make it accessible to businesses and academia alike; as a way to connect ALL computers, big and small, and boost computing power (think peer-to-peer networks); as the next logical step in providing a computing platform for web services; as Business on Demand or Computing as a utility model promoted by IBM and others. All of the above points are actually true.

Through a variety of different means and technologies, computers will learn to share each other’s processors, memory, and memory just as they share communications and information today, and applications will use those resources. While we are far from seeing the full impact that grid computing will bring, it is upon us, and there are both short-term and long-term business implications.

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The actual brains of the computers are being connected, not just the arteries. This means that users will begin to experience the Internet as a seamless computing universe. Software applications, database sessions, and video and audio streams are reborn as services living in cyberspace. Once a desktop computer is connected to the grid, it draws processing power from all other computers in the grid. The Internet itself is becoming a computing platform. Grid computing is the next logical step for the Internet.