Friday, November 16, 2007

Autumn - the conference season

Its been a while since my last post, but there's been several good reasons for that. Most notably, our funding at Grid Computing Now! has been extended a year, which allows us to focus on two key agenda items of interest in Government and the Public Sector. The first is Green IT, and the role that a disctributed computing infrastructure can play in increasing efficiency and reducing costs and emission in the data centre. The second topic is Software Licensing, especially in this age of virtualisation. The notion that a software instance can be tied to any given piece of hardware is becoming increasingly comical. So what's the alternative?

On each of these topics we will be running programmes aimed at educating, stimulating debate in decision making circles and providing the tools and information required to facilitate change. In fact we've made a good start with the Green IT agenda with an excellent webinar on October 25th, this is accessible here, my colleague Dave Berry, the GCN! Technical Lead and Deputy Director of the National e-Science Centre in Edinburgh has added his thoughts here. Beyond this initial step, we're looking to create a community of interested members and will run some conferencing type discussion events during the year, these will feature some of the leading edge work underway at several of our members and give folks the chance to ask questions directly.

Similarly, we will follow the same approach in the Software Licensing thread of activity, although the challenges here are a little more profound. Most notably we have a challenge in breaking the industry mould in which there is a naive linking of software license with hardware on which it is installed in favour of some new models for tracking and paying for usage in a distributed infrastructure, which may span organisational and even geographical boundaries. First step in this direction is being taken with the Federation against Software Theft (FAST) who are about to lead a dialogue with their corporate user members and then with the software publishers and asset management vendors. We are planning several events with them in the New Year as the industry gets to grip with a new situation. Again, we plan to create a special interest group around this subject. I know that there are many of you out there with some frustration on this topic. Please keep an eye on the GCN! website for updates on this topic.

So the team will remain intact with funding aimed at addressing these challenges and continuing the work we are doing in the Intelligent Transport Systems space and elsewhere with the Grid API proposal for Financial Services and our general Events, Case Studies and Roadmapping activities, nb we've just published our first edition of the GCN! Roadmap our next workshop on this topic will be in May 2008.

One new capability we will add in the new year is that of providing some technical facilitation of engagements on the adoption of grid computing. We are developing a network of experts in the field from industry and academia who can help illustrate the potential of grid computing and create a context in which a prospective adopter can engage with industry suppliers. Do let me know if you are interested in this proposition as part of your business activities.

So what else has been going on? Well, apart from the recent Webinar, we met loads of good folk at the 2007 All Hands Meeting in Nottingham where we ran a session on commercialisation with the help of Jim Austing from Cybula and University of York; and Yike Gui, InforSense Ltd. and Imperial College London. It was great fun to listen to their "war stories" associated with getting businesses started from research and the challenges of maintaining the balance between commerce and research activities. See the programme here this session was on Tuesday evening.

We also contributed to another successful Innovate 2007 conference in Westminster. This annual showcase for technology innovation featured as speakers, John Denham, the new minister for Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) and Iain Gray, the new Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, our paymaster in government. The TSB has inherited the responsibilities of the Innovation Programme hosted within the Department of Trade and Industry, which was restructured into DIUS and the Department of Business and Enterprise Regulatory Reform (BERR). The TSB is to be funded to the tune of £1Bn over the 3 years in the forthcoming spending round as per the recommendation of the Sainsbury Report on Innovation published by the outgoing Science Minister, Lord Sainsbury of Turville in October. For those that are interested, the KTNs represent a minor share of this investment, but I like to think that we make a difference. At Innovate 2007 the new Digital Communications KTN was announced and they are now looking for a leader to bring their ambitious programme to life. Keep your eyes peeled for their announcement.

And judging by the google rank for the grid computing now website, we do make a difference to some of you ;o) Thanks for your support over the past 3 years, let's see if we can build on this success to make a real difference in the next year. And then move on to the next big thing!!

Finally, our friend William Knight had a nice piece published in the Guardian this week, in which he discussed the use of Grid Computing in the oil and gas industry. Its worth a read!