The idea behind grid computing is to assemble a collection of distributed computing resources (potentially connected over a local or wide area network) and have them appear to an end user or application as one large virtual computing system.
IBM is, alongside Sun Microsystems, one of the leading advocates of Grid usage outside the boundaries of academia. Indeed, Big Blue is the largest vendor actively pushing forward the development of grid systems and has recently spent much time explaining just how Grid systems can bring value to organizations operating in the cut throat world of business.
IBM's announcement highlighted the availability of grid solutions to four new industries; petroleum, electronics, higher education and agricultural chemicals, complementing those already existing in the aerospace, automotive, financial markets, government and life sciences sectors.
Beyond this, the company also released information on its efforts to build a "Grid Ecosystem". The ecosystem is a recognition that no one supplier will be able to either control or deliver all of the components required to make grid technology usable in as many areas as possible. The initiative seeks to bring together software designers and business partners to help further the assembly of commercial grid solutions. In addition to those companies already taking part in the ecosystem, new entrants include Accelrys, Calypso Technology, Cadence, Force10 Networks, Landmark Graphics Corporation and MSC.Software.
It is also worthwhile noting that two very well recognized vendors, Cisco and Mercury Interactive, also joined up to bring the total number of organizations involved to over thirty-five. It is hoped that the addition of Cisco should help simplify data access and resource sharing across the Grid with the potential eventually to enable globally scaleable access to data through grids.
The most interesting development however, lies neither in the focus on new verticals nor the creation of the so-called grid ecosystem, valuable as this is. Instead it is to be found in the budding extension of the architecture into "information grids". Until recently most of the focus has been on deploying grid solutions as large compute engines. There is now a clear desire to bring in new software vendors to enhance the ability to provide information access and complex business analytic capabilities via grid systems.
Grids are slowly getting out into the real world. They still require significant service work and customization to make them operate but the architecture is now ready for mainstream users to recognize that Grids may soon be offering them valuable opportunities.