iSGTW Feature - The business of grid computing: "What can grids do for you?"

Feature - The business of grid computing: "What can grids do for you?"

Imense Ltd, of Cambridge, England, use gLite middleware to run their content-based image retrieval technology. This particular result came from a search for "green centre, purple background."
Image courtesy of Imense Ltd

EGEE, Europe's largest grid for a wide range of applications, is working with industry to help new businesses and old to capitalize on the open source grid technologies already developed.

Stephanie Parker, who chairs EGEE's Industry Forum, says grids have a lot to offer. "The biggest selling point is that grids can save you money: companies can access more computing power without shelling out for new hardware. Grid delivers major value by improving business performance, by helping to get products to market faster, and by enabling companies to do new things."

Save money; make money

Many companies are working to develop software that enables new technologies for computing grids. An excellent example is Imense Ltd, of Cambridge, England, a start-up using EGEE's open source gLite middleware to run their content-based image retrieval technology. "Our work with the grid let us demonstrate that our software can handle millions of images, at a time when we were a small company and could not supply the computing power needed ourselves," says David Sinclair, one of the founders of Imense. "This in turn impressed the investors, and led to funding for our company."

Grid computing provides the power required to run complex applications, like this financial simulation, an application of Avanade Italy. This screenshot shows a rendering of a volatility matrix.
Image courtesy of Avanade Italy.

Industrial collaboration

The EGEE Business Associate programme is an important component in EGEE's strategy for the take-up of EGEE grid technologies by business and industry. "EGEE is currently working with six companies, all experts in technical development and the grid computing market," says Parker. "We're also bringing on board the world's oldest bank, the Italian-based Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena."

Among these companies is Avanade Italy, who are working with EGEE on their grid technology and applications.

"To fulfill the computing power needs of complex projects, like finance simulations, we created a proprietary grid architecture based on .NET" says Raffaele Sgherri, from Avanade Italy. "We are working with EGEE to implement their standards in our solutions, targeting full interoperability with gLite to provide more flexibility and features to both systems."

Bringing in new business players

EGEE's Industry Forum reaches out to private and public organizations that have not yet looked at grid for their innovation. The Forum interacts with current and new users, highlighting the benefits of grid through user case studies and evaluating adoption potential across diverse verticals.

EGEE's Business Days also provide a primary setting for encouraging collaborations with organizations. "Businesses learn about how gLite might meet their specific needs;" explains Sy Holsinger from Trust-IT. "EGEE learns more about what businesses are asking for. It's a win-win situation." Businesses can also see how they can benefit from inexpensive training services to accelerate adoption.

These meetings are valuable in understanding how to clear any technical and non-technical hurdles to adoption through the support of EGEE's Industry Task Force and the Focus Group for commercial adoption. "If companies have a specific problem, my job is to find a person in EGEE who is working in that area and can help," he says. "In this way we can work together to optimize solutions."

The next EGEE Business Day "Showing companies why they need grid and how they can do it" will be held 21 May 2008 in London with the support of the UK Science & Technology Facilities Council. This event explores opportunities for open source with particular reference to energy, finance and pharmaceuticals.

- Danielle Venton, EGEE