What's hindering the wider deployment and larger uptake
of Grid type architectures ?
Adina Riposan, Director
The most significant obstacles are non-technical organizational barriers,
rooted in people and processes
One of the biggest challenges of the technological advancement today
is to expand the potential of the computing and knowledge Grid and
peer-to-peer approaches to solving complex problems which can
not be solved with current technologies and at the local level. This is
thought to overcome present architectural and design limitations, hampering
the use and wider deployment of computing and knowledge Grids. There is
also the tendency to extend the concept from computation Grids
to knowledge Grids, eventually leading to a "semantic Grid".
The true potential of knowledge, access and computation Grid should be
seen as a way to enable virtualization of computer resources to solve
real business issues. Collaborative working in dynamic virtual organizations
could be enhanced by helping the larger uptake of Grid type architectures.
The aim is to enrich its capabilities by including new functionalities
required for complex problem solving, including security built-in at all
levels, programming environments, resource management, economic and business
models for new services, customizable middleware, interoperability with
existing GRID and Webservices.
For all that, the most significant obstacles are rooted in people and
processes. Control, power, influence, and ownership are all intangibles
that come into play when people's jobs and reputations are on the line.
Overcoming these obstacles requires far more than installing new software
or hardware. People need to be convinced to use Grid computing technology
as a catalyst for business process and organizational change.
Technological concerns, such as standards, security, and data sharing,
are being addressed and aggressively resolved by the broader grid community.
But major internal obstacles to grids are far more difficult to eliminate
- these ranging from loss of control over data and resources, managing
risk and organizational change, to budgetary issues. There is also a somewhat
intimidating perception that grid computing has to start at a global or
enterprise level, which is not always the case
With Grid computing, corporate enterprises can collaborate, share data
and software, store increasingly large volumes of information, and reliably
and securely access vast amounts of processing power - on demand. Grid
computing also offers the potential to effectively align the IT infrastructure
with underlying business objectives for greater impact on corporate performance.
But non-technical organizational barriers continue to pose obstacles to
Grid and shared computing.
Without realizing it, many organizations have erected their own internal
barriers. With multiple lines of business, different priorities and objectives,
autonomous regional operations, headstrong departmental owners, tight
budget controls, and stringent policies and processes governing each part
of the business, it is easy to see how organizations can become divided
on business issues and priorities. These invisible organizational barriers
are formidable obstacles to effectively sharing and leveraging corporate
IT investments. "Server-hugging" has become an often-heard phrase,
as users are confronted by the requirement to share resources with others.
Key findings in the fifth annual "Technology Issues for Financial
Executives" survey, conducted by the Financial Executives Institute
(www.fei.org) in conjunction with Computer Sciences Corp., indicate that
aligning business with IT is becoming a key responsibility of senior executives.
Of more than 500 senior business executives surveyed, 79% demonstrated
their awareness of the strategic impact of IT when they indicated that
integration issues are a somewhat or extremely significant concern for
their company. The report points out that "integration is still
a problem for companies that have the most to integrate. After all, entity
size implies more operating locations
also, most larger entities
are the product of multiple mergers and acquisitions."
Another recent survey was commissioned by Platform Computing to identify
"The Non-Technical Barriers to Implementing Shared Computing in
a Commercial Environment". Phase 1 of the Platform survey
examined the intermediate IT staff that implement and manage IT solutions
for their companies.
In total, 50 companies were surveyed for this report. Participants were
selected based on their familiarity with Grid computing and an ability
to identify some obstacles that they face with deployment of Grid computing
technology. The participants panel was split, by industry, among several
sectors - manufacturing 49%, life sciences 33%, financial services 7%,
research 7% and reseller 4%.
The survey revealed that 89% of respondents feel that internal politics,
such as 'serverhugging', create significant barriers to widespread Grid
adoption. The study was the first to investigate the non-technical obstacles
to Grid computing.
Many of the respondents commented that the technical challenges are more
easily dealt with, whereas the cultural, process, and people-related issues
are far more difficult to overcome. The most important such non-technical
issues proved to be: Risks associated with enterprise-wide deployment;
Loss of control or access to resources; Lack of confidence in a shared
infrastructure, and Loss or reduction of budget dollars.
LOSS OF CONTROL OR ACCESS TO RESOURCES
This not only scored highest in the rankings, but was also mentioned
many times in the open-ended responses. Persuading employees to share
their resources in exchange for access to a larger pool is a difficult
task. Many people also believe that the nature of their work requires
access to particular and unique resources, especially when it comes to
Grid architectures should allow shared control and shared usage of all
resources, providing advanced policy and rule-setting capabilities that
allow users, departments, projects, and other defined groups to reserve
resources when they need them and prioritize access based on business
"The key to making Grid work is to set up so people in different
administrations can share their resources without having to feel that
they lose control. A real Grid spans different administrative controls
as opposed to a cluster which is completely under one administration."
(IT Project Manager, major life sciences company)
RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH ENTERPRISE-WIDE DEPLOYMENT
The thought of having an Enterprise Grid is daunting to many of the survey
respondents. The politics of servicing an entire organization with one
centralized IT infrastructure churn up defensive, territorial sentiments
and concerns. And mainly when different geographies and cultures come
together to agree on global priorities, configurations, standards, and
"The bigger problems are social questions as a result of working
between different cultures and continents. When you try to build a Grid
and you have to do it within a company, you have to set policies and guidelines
and everyone has to agree to give up their own resources into a shared
pool. A global environment causes global problems." (IT Project
Leader, global auto manufacturer)
LOSS OR REDUCTION OF BUDGET DOLLARS
In many companies there is a sentiment of justifying and defending budget.
If you don't spend what you have, you run the risk of having the surplus
cut from subsequent budgets.
"Problems arise because we have a lot of organizations with separate
budgets. Since they have to share resources with Grid, they are skeptical.
We have to prove to them that they are getting their share of resources."
(Engineering Infrastructure Analyst, major EDA company)
What's interesting about Grid adoption is that using Grid computing to
share resources becomes part of the way the company operates, and people
take it for granted. This 'fading into the background' is proof that Grid
computing technology acts as a catalyst to changing business processes
and organizational structure. As the company adjusts to change, the underlying
technology becomes essentially invisible.