Government backs grid computing with £1m

The DTI wants to raise awareness of the benefits of grid computing and overcome board-level ignorance

The DTI has put £1m into IECnet, a program to help UK public and private sector organisations better understand the benefits of using grid technology.

IECnet — the Inter-Enterprise Computing Knowledge Transfer Network — is a collaborative project between IT industry body Intellect and the National e-Science Centre.

It was set up in February and is run by an advisory council made up of suppliers — including BT, Oracle, IBM, HP, Intel and Microsoft — and specialists from the academic community, the DTI and the user community.

The development of the project is being overseen by Ian Osborne, who moved to Intellect to take up the post after a career in research with Agilent and HP Labs. Osborne believes grid technology offers tremendous potential benefits to the UK IT industry and the economy as a whole.

According to Osborne, grid technology will "enable us to strengthen [the UK's] position as a global services provider" and will "facilitate the development of new delivery mechanisms for existing services".

Osborne believes that many in UK business don't really understand the potential of grid technology. "Reaching out and educating chief information officers about the possible grid applications and business benefits to be reaped will be a primary objective of IECnet," he told ZDNet UK on Wednesday.

Osborne insisted that the government has tried to overcome this lack of awareness, pointing to the £250m already invested in the UK in the e-Science research programme that has developed "a globally competitive national information infrastructure", which is essential in the development of grid technology.

Osborne says "too much hype" around grid technology is one reason why business has remained sceptical, echoing comments made by another leading light of the UK grid community, Mark Parsons. Parsons, of the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre, summed the problem up in may by saying "there are far too many marketing departments involved." Osborne went on to emphasise the many practical examples of grid computing. "Take, that's grid technology," he said. "You can have one to 1,000 users and it just scales up or down, shifting resources across the network." A key enabler of grid computing will be "Web-based services", he added.

As a first step in the education process, IECnet has set up a Web site as a resource for organisations looking for practical information and help.