The Sun Grid $50k Contest & the Doubter

While I appreciate Greg Nawrocki's perspective on the challenges associated with growing a community of users for Sun Grid and more specifically the Cool Apps Challenge, and respect his viewpoint; I do believe that there are a couple of things that Greg needs to remember.

  1. Grid computing has been around for a very long time, mostly in the academic spaces, but also in enterprises.
  2. The Academic / Scientific endeavors tend to frequently push the bloody edge of technology, which means that they are constantly battling for more “resources” to solve their mathematical/relational problems.... Chips are “never fast enough”, “memory is never fast enough or big enough”, “storage...” you get the picture.
  3. Enterprises are dealing with substantially more data than they ever have, and the analysis of that data - turning data into an actionable thesis is seen even more strongly as a competitive imperative.... this is taking enterprises into the theoretical realms once reserved for science.
  4. At the most basic level Grids are nothing more than a collection of resources, that can be combined to produce a variety of systems, though Grids today address the more data-crunching intensive workloads - some embarassingly parallel, there is nothing preventing a grid of resources from being used to compose an enterprise system substrate, in fact Sun's N1 initiative, Platform's Symphony, Cassatt Collage, DataSynapse, Parameus, GigaSpaces and others share this vision of composing systems from common components (should sound familiar to the SOA crowd).

All in all, Greg is right, having a competition is a mechanism to increase awareness of the Grid's capabilities and applicability but, I do have to ask “why not.” If the killer application for the grid emerges, great, if it doesn't; it has still increased the visibility of the value of utility computing and the impact of a mesh of consistent resources. Are developer contests right for the enterprise? - hey, who knows. Because Southwest Airlines emails out a “Cities Special” do you refuse to fly? And, what about Google's Summer of Code, or the Intel Game Demo Contest let's face it competitions are another form of promotion, and as an effective brand and community building technique to the all important developer community - independent or enterprise (most of us do both anyways).

Most enterprises share a set of challenges; now that we have already seen the impact of platform consolidation on both acquisition costs, and operations costs, and now we're just beginning to address the impact of virtualization on data center utilization (raises it) and operational factors (makes it more complex to manage). Virtualization impacts every layer in an enterprise architecture, and applications need to be better able to deal with horizontal scale/distributed workflows, and the impact of accumulated MTBF. I talk frequently about Deutsch's fallacies; distributed partial failure needs to be addressed explicitly by an architecture, and increasing awareness in this area is important for the entire IT industry. Sun is actively building a community of partners and customers who, in a like minded way want to solve for increased operational / capital efficiency, increased scale, and increased agility - difficult problems, but things that only a large community of constituents can solve.

So Greg, we had to start somewhere! if you know of a better way to get to our end goal of agile-distributed-component based-failure resistant-capacity managed-systems, I'd love to hear it!

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