Grid cloudification

Grid computing is moulting and, to no surprise, the new skin has “cloud” written all over it.

That’s one way to interpret the announcement today that HP, Intel and Yahoo are going to launch a compute cloud. Seeing Intel and HP work together on this is no surprise. Back at HP I had some involvement with the collaboration between HP Labs and Intel on PlanetLab.

I have only read the Gigaom article and Steve’s, so this post is not an analysis of the announcement. Just a few questions that come to mind. They can be most concisely expressed by trying to understand the difference with Amazon’s EC2. The quotes below all come from the Gigaom article.

“six physical locations” -> Amazon has availability zones, including the choice of three geographies.

“between 1,000 and 4,000 mostly Intel cores” -> According to this well-publicized story, Amazon can deliver 5,000 servers (each linked to at least one physical core) to one customer without breaking a sweat.

“We want, unlike other partnerships including Google and IBM’s where the lower-level stacks are not provided in a open manner to the world, open access to all levels of the hardware” -> The quote seems to conveniently avoid comparison with EC2 which provides a much lower abstraction level: virtual machines with mountable raw block storage devices. How much lower can you go without handing out access cards to physically walk into the datacenter? Access to the BMC on the motherboard? Access to some internal bus? Remote-controlled little robots that will slide cards in and out of a chassis?

“researchers will be able to access the cloud through a proposal process later this year” -> Ec2 offers pay-as-you go, which tends to be a good driver for people to use the infrastructure efficiently. And of course someone can always give researchers a grant in the form of EC2 rent money.

Just to be clear, I am not belittling the announcement because for one thing I haven’t read much about it and for another I probably know many of the HP Labs people involved and they are part of the “mucho sapiens” branch of “homo sapiens”. I know they wouldn’t bother putting this out if it was nothing more than giving researchers some free EC2 time.

But these are the questions I’ll be trying to answer for myself as I read more about this project.

[UPDATED 2008/9/19: Russ Daniels (who was HP Software CTO when I was at HP and is now CTO of Cloud Services Strategy) comments on the announcement.]

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Filed under Amazon, Everything, Grid, HP, Manageability, Tech, Utility computing, Virtualization, Yahoo

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