Grid computing is a new IT architecture that produces more resilient and lower cost enterprise information systems. With grid computing, groups of independent, modular hardware and software components can be connected and rejoined on demand to meet the changing needs of businesses.
The grid style of computing aims to solve some common problems with enterprise IT: the problem of application silos that lead to under utilized, dedicated hardware resources, the problem of monolithic, unwieldy systems that are expensive to maintain and difficult to change, and the problem of fragmented and disintegrated information that cannot be fully exploited by the enterprise as a whole.
Benefits of Grid Computing Compared to other models of computing, IT systems designed and implemented in the grid style deliver higher quality of service, lower cost, and greater flexibility. Higher quality of service results from having no single point of failure, a robust security infrastructure, and centralized, policy-driven management. Lower costs derive from increasing the utilization of resources and dramatically reducing management and maintenance costs. Rather than dedicating a stack of software and hardware to a specific task, all resources are pooled and allocated on demand, thus eliminating under utilized capacity and redundant capabilities. Grid computing also enables the use of smaller individual hardware components, thus reducing the cost of each individual component and providing more flexibility to devote resources in accordance with changing needs.
Grid Computing Defined
The grid style of computing treats collections of similar IT resources holistically as a single pool, while exploiting the distinct nature of individual resources within the pool. To address simultaneously the problems of monolithic systems and fragmented resources, grid computing achieves a balance between the benefits of holistic resource management and flexible independent resource control. IT resources managed in a grid include:
- Infrastructure: the hardware and software that create a data storage and program execution environment
- Applications: the program logic and flow that define specific business processes
- Information: the meanings inherent in all different types of data used to conduct business
- With virtualization, individual resources (e.g. computers, disks, application components and information sources) are pooled together by type then made available to consumers (e.g. people or software programs) through an abstraction. Virtualization means breaking hard-coded connections between providers and consumers of resources, and preparing a resource to serve a particular need without the consumer caring how that is accomplished.
- With provisioning, when consumers request resources through a virtualization layer, behind the scenes a specific resource is identified to fulfill the request and then it is allocated to the consumer. Provisioning as part of grid computing means that the system determines how to meet the specific need of the consumer, while optimizing operation of the system as a whole.
The specific ways in which information, application or infrastructure resources are virtualized and provisioned are specific to the type of resource, but the concepts apply universally. Similarly, the specific benefits derived from grid computing are particular to each type of resource, but all share the characteristics of better quality, lower costs and increased flexibility.