Taken to its logical extreme, IBM’s view of the future of enterprise
computing could mean a world where corporations no longer have IT
IBM Grid Computing General Manager Tom Hawk doesn’t necessarily think it
will get to that point – some companies may always prefer having
in-house expertise – but IBM is moving in a direction that could make
With stated goals of autonomic computing and self-healing
technologies, IBM’s goal is to make it so clients “don’t have to think
about” where their compute power comes from or how it works, Hawk
Hawk made his comments both in a keynote address to the first Grid
Computing Planet Conference & Expo in San Jose on June 17 and in an
interview with Grid Computing Planet.
IBM’s vision is to make compute power like electricity: customers don’t
need to think about where it comes from, as long as it’s there when they
plug into an outlet. Hawk cited the example of Ford Motor Co., which a
century ago ran its own power plants. When electricity became more
dependable, Ford sold those plants and got out of the utility business.
Computational infrastructure could develop in much the same way, Hawk
‘Overwhelmed By Complexity’
Despite the lofty vision, IBM’s rationale is grounded in business
necessity. More than 60% of IT budgets are dedicated to maintenance and
integration – a percentage that Hawk says continues to rise – so the
need to reduce complexity and management demands is a pressing one.
“Customers are overwhelmed by the complexity,” he said.
And IBM has dedicated tremendous resources to solving the problem. Grid
computing is one of only three technologies that Big Blue has completely
redirected the company to embrace, the others being the Internet and
Linux. Hawk estimates that IBM has 5,000-6,000 employees working on Grid
technologies, and others working on related technologies.
While others at the conference estimated that Grid computing over the
Internet – the utility model – is 5-10 years away, Hawk cautioned
attendees that “it’s coming much faster than people think.” The Internet
has shortened each new technology cycle dramatically, Hawk said, and IBM
views Grid computing as the next stage in the evolution of the
Hawk, who became general manager for Grid computing after 12 years
working in systems integration, said telecom companies have seized on
Grid technology as a potential growth area, calling them “huge early
IBM has approached Grid computing in a collaborative way, working with
the open source Globus Project on the Open Grid Services Architecture
(OGSA) protocols, a vision for the convergence of Grid computing and Web
services. Big Blue has partnered with leading private Grid companies
such as Platform Computing, Avaki, Entropia and United Devices on
technologies such as aggregation of compute cycles, data Grid
technology, resiliency, and on-demand computing (the utility model).
But while IBM’s smaller partners have focused on enterprise Grids within
firewalls and across virtual private networks, Big Blue has its sights
set on the Internet. As one example of Grid’s potential over the
Internet, Hawk said the recently announced collaboration with online
video game company Butterfly.net has resulted in about 1,000 downloads a
week of the developer’s toolkit.