Feature - Going Mobile: Extending Grid to the Lower End
Think your cell phone has nothing to contribute to grid services? Think again.
Stavros Isaiadis of the University of Westminster is working on the so-called "lower end" of the grid performance spectrum, as part of CoreGRID, and the university's Distributed and Intelligent Systems Group, led by Vladimir Getov.
"Grid usually revolves around high performance computing," explains Isaiadis, "which means you need raw resources-things like CPU and memory. Framed like this, mobile devices can only make a very limited contribution."
But, Isaiadis asks, what about flexibility, agility, mobility?
"Mobile devices can extend grids into areas where static grids can not go. You can leverage resources from many devices, like from WiFi hotspots or conference rooms, to create an ad hoc high performance facility. You don't have infrastructure, but you can provide instant facilities for collaboration."
Mobile devices have even more to offer to grid providers with unique functionality requirements, and can include multimedia equipment, Global Positioning Systems and context-awareness.
"Many organizations cannot use standard grids," he says. "They are heavily dependent on mobile personnel or field operations, and they need a different set of grid resources."
"Police can automatically transmit data collected using the mobile devices in their patrol vehicles. Ambulances can automatically send patient data to hospital control centers. In this way, data from mobile devices can be used to provide seamless and automatic transmission of information to the people who need it most."
"Community members can share their mobile content with other members, enabling time-sensitive, location-specific information on particular places."
Applications for this technology, says Isaiadis, range from avoiding traffic jams to planning a night out. "Members will be able to 'pull' data from you, rather than you needing to explicitly 'push' information to them."
Isaiadis' platform already supports some simple applications, acting as a bridging layer to connect the grid domain to the mobile domain.
"The platform is like a proxy layer that represents mobiles devices to the grid system, balancing out the huge differences in performance, reliability and availability of the two domains."
Since mobile devices are fraught with connectivity issues and battery issues, they aren't as reliable as static devices.
To escape potential problems, Isaiadis presents multiple devices as a single entity.
"This way you can pool many mobile devices, and have many failures, but the platform handles them all on the spot, so the grid isn't affected."
So with all this potential, shouldn't there be a sexier name for the grid's "lower end"?
Isaiadis hopes there soon will be: "Mobile devices offer new ways of thinking about grid functionality. In time this technology will become an ordinary part of extending grid capabilities."
- Cristy Burne, iSGTW