Firms clamour for slice of web services action

4 Mar 2003

Web services, on-demand and grid computing will make previously expensive software and computing services more accessible to small and medium-sized companies as well as large enterprises, a senior engineer at IBM has told leading indigenous Irish software firms.

IBM distinguished engineer David Ehnebuske headlined an Enterprise Ireland-sponsored conference entitled ‘On Demand Computing’, attended by some of Ireland’s leading indigenous software firms involved in web services software, including Cape Clear, Fineos and Iona Technologies.

Ehnebuske said that IBM was spearheading its ambition to create grid computing – distributed computing, in which a network of computers taps into a main computer server that stores software and data. Thousands of distributed computing networks would be linked over worldwide grids in a system resembling a utility company’s power grid. But instead of electricity this grid will supply immense computing power on tap.

“We are endeavouring to re-shape computing. Web services and grid computing will enable whole new classes of computing and make things that people can’t afford affordable. Web services will act as an intelligent glue that will sit between disparate computing systems that previously couldn’t talk to each other. Web services will also be available over a host of devices and platforms,” Ehnebuske said.

“Allied with the idea of grid computing, whereby users can access computing services as a utility, we are working with software companies and other interested companies to develop a giant heterogeneous network of systems and services that can be easily accessed. It has begun as an academic pursuit, but it is speeding up to accommodate a raft of core services,” he continued.

Ehnebuske added that in the pursuit of web services and grid computing, IBM encouraged the growing open standards movement.

Just as the internet gained widespread use as a global data network in the Nineties, the grid is predicted to become a widely used global computing resource over the current decade. Creation of grids has progressed among experimental physicists who have created the European Data Grid, the Particle Physics Data Grid and the Grid Physics Network for the distributed management and analysis of large experimental data sets. Other such works include civil engineers who use the network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation Grid to conduct research on designing seismically safe buildings.

IBM itself is involved in building the UK national grid that initially will take the supercomputers at a number of major universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh and link them together over high bandwidth. In the US, the company is building the TeraGrid, a giant supercomputing initiative that will have about 13.5 teraflops worth of processing power and close to 700 terabytes of storage spread across key US universities, connected by a 40-gigabit fibre optic pipe.

By John Kennedy