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Friday, January 11, 2013

A journey through Grid and Virtualization leading to Cloud computing


In computing these are two trends I have seen crisscrossing throughout my career.
1.       Making a computing node look like multiple nodes using virtualization.
2.       Making multiple computing nodes work as a single whole called a cluster or grid
So, there was an era where the computing was really a “Big-Iron” and the computers are mainframe size and provided a lot of capacity of computing. One computer handled multiple users and multiple operations at the same time.  The Virtual Machine is included in operating system of IBM and the mainframes as well as from DEC VAX mainframes had similar concepts. Of late, we see the trend even in desktops with hypervisors like vmware etc., coming out.
With the advent of mid-range servers with limited capacity, there is a need to put them together to get the higher computing power to deal with the demand.  The first commercial cluster developed by DEC ARCnet even though there is always been a fight between IBM and DEC on who invented clusters.  Clustering also provides high availability / fault tolerance along with higher computing capacity.  Oracle was the first database to implement parallel server on ARCnet cluster for VAX operating system.
This trend of cluster computing has achieved supercomputing to break the complex task in to multiple parallel streams and execute them on multiple processors. What is the fundamental challenge in “clustering” – the process coordination and access to the shared resources. This leads to be locally networked and connected with high performance local network.
Another concept of this is grid computing where the administrative domain can connect loosely coupled nodes to perform a task. So, we have more and more cores, processors, nodes in a grid to provide low cost, fault tolerant computing. This is making smaller components put together to look like a giant computing capacity.
Finally, what I see today is “Cloud” which creates a grid of elastic nodes that look to appear like a single (large) computing resource and gives a slice of virtualized capacity to each of multiple tenants of that computing resource.  
Designing solutions in each of these technologies of big-iron, virtualization, clusters & grid and in Cloud world has really been challenging and keeps the job lively…
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