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Sun to marry iPlanet portal to Grid Engine

Control freak interface

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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Sun Microsystems Inc will announce today that it has created a set of Java-based frameworks that integrate its iPlanet Portal Server with its Grid Engine software,

Timothy Prickett Morgan writes

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The move, the company says, will facilitate the proliferation of grid applications among corporations and research institutions and will help lay the foundations for commercial utility grids.

The iPlanet Portal Server is a middleware program than runs on Solaris that provides password-protected access to applications under a Web services model, the kinds of personalized Web applications that are cropping up every day on the internet and on corporate internets where access to certain pieces of Web applications have to be restricted. In essence, programs like Sun's iPlanet Portal Server turn the open Web interface of the internet into the control-freak interface of stalwart systems like IBM mainframes.

Sun's Grid Engine software is used to aggregate the unused processing capacity in Solaris and Linux workstations and servers connected to each other over a network and put it to use performing number-crunching tasks that are usually handled by supercomputers. Sun has estimated that workstations and server spread around companies are generally only working 5% to 20% of the time, and says that by using Grid Engine software, companies can push the CPU utilization of their workstations and servers as high as 98%. This is a lot cheaper than buying a supercomputer.

The Technical Compute Portal, as the new Java frameworks are called, link the iPlanet Portal Server and the Grid Engine middleware programs together. For now, the iPlanet Portal Server only runs on Solaris and so far the Technical Computer Portal Java code has only been tested on Solaris, but Sun has committed to porting the whole iPlanet stack to Linux and the Java frameworks can be easily ported to Linux and presumably will be. For now, customers can run all of this software on Solaris or in a hybrid Solaris-Linux cluster.

By having the iPlanet Portal Server controlling access to Grid Engine resources, companies interested in grid computing can set up an interface to let their end users create their own accounts and make use of the processor cycles out there on the network. The iPlanet portal allows users and administrators to view the progress of grid applications and control how data is sent to the applications and pulled out of them. And because it has a Web interface, this means people with correct passwords can access grid resources that have been enabled through the portal from anywhere on the Web.

John Tollefsrud, product marketing manager for grid computing at Sun, says that the company is seeing grid computing take off in traditional supercomputing environments as well as in corporations. In particular, companies and research organizations engaged in genomics, various life sciences, image processing and digital content delivery, electronic design automation, and product design within manufacturing are all looking into using grid computing to supplement their number-crunching needs.

Tollefsrud said that within one or two months, Sun would deliver the enterprise edition of the Grid Engine software, which the company previewed back in November 2001. The enterprise edition of this software allows for companies to manage multiple, nested clusters of computing grids that are spread around an office complex or campus across multiple networks.

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