Friday, March 23, 2007

Gathering Momentum!

It's been a while since I sat down to update my blog, part of that was a change in the Blogger system which I use, which resulted in the URL of the blog changing, the new version of IE apparently found this out and normal service has been resumed! But the main reason is that its been a busy time, a lot of water flowing under the bridge and some exciting things emerging!

Firstly, our webinar series has really got some momentum and the last event in particular shed light on the challenge of maintaining large scale databases in a distributed environment. A problem that the NHS has in spades. The work of the IBHIS project is well worth taking a look at, if you are puzzling over how you might pull together the data from several databases into one view. It also is a more resilient and secure way of managing large infrastructures, allowing individual databases to be maintained by their owners and by the same token ensuring that only data which is permitted to be made public is seen elsewhere. A possible solution to the concern that 250,000, yes a quarter of a million, NHS employees might have access to patient medical records when the system finally goes live!

This led me to thinking of a different spin on this. Why shouldn't we own such data ourselves? Either directly or via an agent. This would allow an individual to grant access to a relevant selection of data to someone authorised to use the data, rather than leaving the whole shooting match under someone else's control! This is not a new thought process as I discovered when I asked the question in the IBHIS Webinar, but the IBHIS data federation scheme could cope with this. Such a scheme would allow us to reveal our personal details to our doctor during a consultation. Grant access to specific data about us, appropriately obscured, for medical research; provide for emergency access to your medical data from an accredited centre; and prevent wider abuses of personal data being made fully accessible, perhaps by an agent of your insurance company while they are considering a proposal. I'm sure that there are down sides to this from the perspective of 3rd party access to medical records. But then, after all, whose data is it? See to find the webinar.

For those of us who are terminally doubtful about the adoption of such exciting new technologies, a meeting late in February was of some reassurance. The Financial Services community met in the City to consider the development of a generic description of grid middleware functions to enable the abstraction, or hiding, of propietary solutions from the customer implementation. This is intended to allow for multiple supplier's solutions to be implemented across the increasingly large deployments of "grid" clusters, now numbering in the several thousands. To their credit the leading suppliers were at the table gently teasing each other while playing along patiently with their customers. Watch this space over the next few months, we could be looking at some new inter-operability in this vital area of the Grid. If you are interested in participating do contact me:

Finally, these and many other exciting developments will be discussed at the Open Grid Forum's 20th Conference event which will be held in Manchester, May 8th to 11th. During this event, Grid Computing Now! will host a Grids Mean Business Track on the 8th and 9th, which will feature many of our friends from the case studies which we have developed in past 2 years. Further details at register soon, there is an early bird discount available for the Grids Mean Business Track which ends this month. Type "GMB" into the appropriate field on the registration form. More details at

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