Grid computing to dominate technology

27 Nov 2002

An explosion in utility or grid computing, similar in structure to today’s electricity grids, will dominate computing, data networks and the internet over the coming decade, the latest PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Technology Forecast 2002-2004 claims.

This latest book is the second volume of PwC’s annual technology forecast. The first volume, out earlier this year, focused on ‘Navigating the Future of Software’, whereas this latest volume concentrates on ‘Emerging Patterns of Internet Computing’.

Last year, the forecast argued that the mobile internet would succeed only by developing applications that take advantage of such things as the ability to access and receive information at any time, using a device that is always with the user, aware of its location and able to access services specific to that location.

According to the forecast, grid computing involves the creation of a reliable and scalable global infrastructure that connects computing and other information resources owned and managed by many organisations into a giant, global virtual computer. The forecast argues for computing as a utility, whereby the utility model would supply computing resources in the same way that public utilities such as electric power or water are supplied. The forecast also suggests the arrival of an internet protocol dial tone; the idea for which is that access to the internet and to the data transport services it offers, will become omnipresent, like the dial tone of the public switched telephone network (PSTN).

The latest forecast also puts forward the vision of pervasive or ubiquitous computing, whereby IT is both universally available and invisible because it is part of the fabric of daily life.

So far, the creation of computing grids has progressed the farthest among experimental physicists, who have created the European Data Grid, the Particle Physics Data Grid and the Grid Physics Network (GriPhyN) for the distributed management and analysis of large experimental data sets.

Similar work has been undertaken by other research communities, such as civil engineers, who use the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation Grid to conduct research on designing seismically-safe buildings.

IBM is involved in building a giant computing grid for university hospitals in the US engaged in top-level cancer research.

In Dublin to present the latest forecast, the publication’s editor-in-chief Eric Burg said that other new technologies such as session initiation protocol (SIP) and the next generation 802.11a Wi-Fi technology — which will deliver up to 54Mbps of broadband — promise to be disruptive insofar as the future of telecoms is concerned.

Speaking of 802.11 technologies, he said: “This technology provides enterprises and individuals the ability to set up networks that compete with 3G [third generation] wireless data networks, offering an alternative to the centrally-controlled carrier networks, the same way that the internet’s open standards supplied an alternative to centrally-controlled networks over the previous decade.”

By John Kennedy