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Opinion - Grids, clouds and communities: an Open Grid Forum perspective

Opinion - Grids, clouds and communities: an Open Grid Forum perspective

Image courtesy BELIEF

(Editor's note: Below, Open Grid Forum's Paul Strong and Craig Lee give their view of the future of grids and clouds.)

OGF's initial focus on grids has broadened over time, reflecting evolution in community needs and in technologies such as virtualization and cloud computing.

Grids have been widely adopted across academia and industry. Their evolution and deployment has been driven by several desires: to share data and computational resources, to get results faster, to improve efficiency and to collaborate.

Clouds are driven by different needs, primarily the desire for financial flexibility, offered by platforms such as "pay-per-use," and business agility, such as reduced time to market and the ability to engage in fast, low-risk experimentation. The cloud model relies on the provider first achieving economies of scale, through sharing resources, and then offering infrastructure, platforms and software as services via the network. Ultimately, this model enables outsourcing of everything that has no differentiating value.

Cloud and grid implementations tend to share many technologies and techniques. Both are realized as distributed systems and often leverage virtualization in one form or another. In many cases, grid owners are looking to take advantage of the capabilities and benefits of clouds.

Perhaps the most important thing that larger grids and clouds share is that both run on shared infrastructures accessed via the network, often remotely. It is this common attribute that also results in shared problems, which both the grid and cloud communities need to address. These problems include, but are not limited to, portability of services and data between grids or clouds; secure access to and operation of those services; secure movement and storage of data; the need for location awareness to cater for disparate regulatory requirements; unified management for both internal and external platforms, and so on.

Many of these issues are major impediments to the wider commercial exploitation of clouds, yet they are also areas that the grid community, and thus OGF, has experience and expertise in.

Image courtesy Agata Urbaniak, stock.xchng

Driving discussion

Consequently, OGF is actively engaging with the cloud community including advocacy groups, standards organizations and user groups as well as the grid and IT community, specifically in terms of understanding the opportunities and challenges that the cloud paradigm offers.

This engagement is exemplified by OGF Europe, a project funded as part of the European Commission's FP7 platform, and its Industry Expert Group. In January 2009, this group held a very successful workshop, called "Cloudscape," which explored the impact of cloud computing on Enterprise IT.

Cloudscape was followed by a workshop at OGF25 that focused on how existing grid users or owners can take advantage of the flexibility of cloud computing, and what the current trends mean with respect to existing grid infrastructure.

OGF and OGF Europe will continue to drive the discussion around the grid/cloud intersection in the autumn with a workshop focused on grids as a service in the cloud.

Open Grid Forum is an open community forum driving the rapid evolution and adoption of applied distributed computing. Its members share their experiences, discuss new trends and solve shared problems, the latter typically through the development of standards that facilitate interoperability and integration.

-Paul Strong, Secretary, Board of Directors, OGF & Craig A. Lee, President, OGF, U.S. Portions of this opinion previously appeared in Zero-In magazine (2nd issue). For another perspective on grids and clouds, see the GridTalk GridBriefing.

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