The Grid Conquers All - How It Works
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There are five fundamental concepts behind the Grid. These are what make the Grid the next generation of computing.
I mentioned earlier that the Grid is about sharing computing power and storage capacity. This is indeed the essence of Grid computing. Through sharing, the Grid can give you access to remote computers, software, and data, which essentially adds up to more computing power. There is even the possibility of remote control over devices (telescopes, sensors) that don't belong to you. The challenge lies in getting so many different people with different software, systems, etc. to connect seamlessly.
One way to ensure seamless resource sharing is to use the resources efficiently (though efficiency should be a priority in any endeavor, not just the Grid, but I digress). There are bound to be an abundance of people waiting to use the finite amount of resources (e.g. routing centers). In order to know how many people are waiting, "middleware" has been developed to analyze the data presented by each task waiting to be performed and then designate the resources accordingly. Think of middleware as housekeepers in the form of software.
For people to feel safe using the Grid, which is based on such a communal concept, there must be some sort of security standards. While on the Grid, developers and users will be responsible for three key things:
Access policy - who, what, where, when in terms of sharing
Authentication - identifying users and resources
Authorization - determining whether each operation is within the rules
CERN says they are in the process of developing a dependable "accounting mechanism" to perform these functions. Accounting? Uh oh, let me break out my cash register.
No Distance Criterion
Thanks to the evolution of network technology, the distance between resources should not be a factor for the Grid. Lately, the performance of wide are networks have been doubling, with many running over 155 megabits per second. But researchers using the Grid will need up to tens of gigabits per second along with extremely low latency. The calculations required for these specific projects will require constant communication between processors and to achieve this, solutions for things like Transport Protocol optimization and high-performance Ethernet switching have to be generated.
Keeping the Grid open for everyone to contribute either to its development or investment is a little trickier than it sounds. The main issue is deciding which standards should be used for Grid development. The Internet and the Web have TCP/IP and HTTP, which were set by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The Grid, on the other hand, has the Global Grid Forum to develop standards. The key standard being OGSA (Open Grid Services Architecture), which will be used to bring the work going into the Globus Toolkit into accord. Simply put, the Globus Toolkit offers the software tools needed to construct a Grid.
The next section will go into more detail about the Grid's capabilities.
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