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Grid Computing

GridThe first definition of Grid Computing was given in 1998 by Carl Kesselman and Ian Foster in the book "The Grid: Blueprint for a New Computing Infrastructure".

They wrote:

"A computational grid is a hardware and software infrastructure that provides dependable, consistent, pervasive, and inexpensive access to high-end computational capabilities".

In a subsequent article, "The Anatomy of the Grid", co-authored with Steve Tuecke in 2000, the definition was refined, stating that Grid computing is concerned with "coordinated resource sharing and problem solving in dynamic, multi-institutional virtual organizations".

In particular:

"The sharing that we are concerned with is not primarily file exchange but rather direct access to computers, software, data, and other resources, as is required by a range of collaborative problemsolving and resource-brokering strategies emerging in industry, science, and engineering. This sharing is, necessarily, highly controlled, with resource providers and consumers defining clearly and carefully just what is shared, who is allowed to share, and the conditions under which sharing occurs. A set of individuals and/or institutions defined by such sharing rules form what we call a virtual organization".


The key distinction between grids and other technologies like clusters or Peer-to-Peer (P2P)  mainly lies in the way resources are managed.

In case of clusters, the resource allocation is performed by a centralised resource manager and all nodes cooperatively work together as a single unified resource. In case of Grids, each node has its own resource manager and do not aim for providing a single system view. It should be noted that autonomous resources in the Grid normally span multiple organisations, each of them with its own access and security policies.

Also the P2P architectures aim at the collective and coordinated use of a large number of resources scattered in a distributed environment. However the user communities that have adopted and popularized these two approaches are vastly different, both in terms of their user-level requirements as well as the architectural design of the systems themselves.

An excellent introduction to grid computing for non-experts is provided in the GridCafé Web site,that has been managed by the EC-cofunded GridTalk project since May 2008.

Grid technology has been used in many scientific fields, as molecular modelling for drug design, brain activity analysis, high energy physics, and also in some hydrometeorology projects.