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Sun pushes its compute farm architecture

(LinuxWorld) -- Sun Microsystems wants to see greater adoption of its grid computing architecture. SuSE Linux wants to offer even more value in its Professional Linux distribution. As a result, SuSE Linux Professional Linux version 8.0, being released today, will include an open source version of Sun's Grid Engine 5.3.

The open source Grid Engine project, launched by Sun last year, is licensed under the Sun Industry Standards Source License, which is classified as a free non-copylefted license by the Free Software Foundation. That means that its source code is available but that modifications to that source code by adopters do not have to be shared.

Sun spokesman Peter Jeffcock briefed LinuxWorld last week on the roots of the Grid Engine project and grid computing in general in preparation for today's release of SuSE 8.0. Sun followed that move by porting the grid engine to Linux and making that available in January of 2001.

The grid architecture -- also known as compute farms -- has seen rapid growth the past two years. According to Jeffcock, there are more than 4,000 grids in place today. The open source Grid Engine project has nearly 300 developers.

Sun's vision of grid computing scales to three different levels. At the bottom come local clusters. This is the level provided by Grid Engine 5.3 as it comes from either the project site or SuSE Professional Edition 8.0. The grid software maintains a list of things that need to be done and a list of resources capable of doing them. Then it keeps those resources busy at the task until it is completed.

The second level of grid computing is the campus or enterprise level. In it, separate grids are linked to pool their resources. Say for example that both the math and engineering schools at a large university have their own compute farms, or grids. For most purposes, each is sufficient to their needs. Now and then a computing problem comes up which could benefit from extra CPU power. That's a case where a second level grid makes sense. The third level grid is called a global grid. It performs the same function as a campus or enterprise grid, except it does so outside the firewalls.

SuSE Professional Edition 8.0 will become the first Linux distribution to include a grid engine from a major player. Grids are of enormous value to industries where computing power is put at a premium on an irregular basis. All types of number crunching from seismic analysis to drug interactions to video productions are excellent candidates. In these cases, grids can provide the needed compute power over the short term without having to dedicate that power to the task when its not needed.

You can also download Grid Engine 5.3 from the project Web site in source or binary format. Jeffcock said the project is always looking for a few more developers, so if you are curious about grid software this might be a good project to join. You can do that from the homepage.

About Joe Barr
Joe Barr is a freelance journalist covering Linux, open source and network security. His 'Version Control' column has been a regular feature of Linux.SYS-CON.com since its inception. As far as we know, he is the only living journalist whose works have appeared both in phrack, the legendary underground zine, and IBM Personal Systems Magazine.

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