Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Tis the Conference Season, last week, Grid World 2006 in Washington DC. The first combined conference featuring the Open Grid Forum, a confluence of the Global Grid Forum and the Enterprise Grid Alliance, and Globus World, the original Grid movement led by Ian Foster and Carl Kesselman and those at Argonne National Labs in Chicago.

As usual my interest in the conference is to find commercial implementation and adoption experience and this conference contained some gems and some more of the same. Gems which I enjoyed included Paul Strong's expose of the underpinning infrastructures at eBay. A truly global scale enterprise delivering web services to nearly 200M active users worldwide. Several interesting facts emerged: eBay develops its own tools to manage the infrastucture in a grid style. They are able to build a new instance of the many eBay websites in a remarkably short number of days - allowing them to roll forwards at speed, and have an highly robust architecture aimed at ensuring that they don't suffer the revenue loss of $3K per minute which would accrue if service is interrupted.

I encountered one or two interesting snippits about eBaying behaviours around the world. In some Asian countries people take pictures of goods on the shelf in stores, post them and offer them for sale, presmably at a premium. Rushing off to purchase only when an order is received! Another practice is to offer a food delicacy online to the highest bidder. For those interested Paul is Distinguished Research Scientist at eBay Labs, previously at Sun Microsystems.

Presentations from the conference are available at the delightfully named http://gridworld.pistonbroke.com/. I can recommend Andy Mulholland's vision of a service enabled collaborative world. Of course, we presented our own GCN! Workshop on Knowledge Transfer with the willing assistance of Mark Parsons. The workshop was well attended, by the standards of the Community Programme and a lively discussion ensued on the matters of knowledge transfer. The bottom line from the discussion revolved around the usual problem: how do we make grid computing relevant and exciting for the business community. That's close to what keeps me awake at night!

Another gem was the product offerings of United Devices, I liked their approach to hetergeneous networks of computers and they have a sophisticated approach to assessing traffic and activity which enables the gathering of data for use in service level management. Critical for those service providers wishing to offer utility capability to their clients.

The attendance at the event was a little thin, the very large environs of the Washington Convention Center were not so friendly. But my abiding impression of the event was that the programme was stronger than the previous Autumn, but that it is very much the supply side of the industry which is getting to grips with the technicalities of grid infrastructure. I wrote some of these thoughts in an interview for GridToday ahead of the EGEE'06 conference in Geneva next week - but that's another story. For a more comprehensive review of the conference see GridToday's coverage at http://www.gridtoday.com/gridworld/06/index.html .

A special delight for the UK team present was the award of the GridToday Editor's Prize for the e-Science programme. Unfortunately they were rather busy in a meeting planning the next major international event on the OGF calendar, OGF20 will be held in Manchester during the week beginning May 7th 2007. GCN! will be presenting a business track at the event. Contact Dave Berry to share your interests or potential offer to help. Personal delights during my visit were the glimpse of the White House from the street, I'm a big fan of the West Wing, and the new cuisine of Rosa Mexicano at 7th and F streets. A restaurant where they make the guacamole fresh at the table.