S'pore turns on commercial grid

Starting Nov. 1, three appointed service providers will make available computing services over the grid to businesses in Singapore and the region.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor on

SINGAPORE--Businesses in Asia will soon be able to tap on commercial pay-per-use grid computing services, as part of a government-driven initiative to promote grid adoption beyond research purposes.

The three service provider-groups appointed by Singapore's Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) will activate on-demand access to computing power, software applications as well as storage and archival from Nov. 1, the companies told ZDNet Asia.

First announced in 2007, the National Grid is said to appeal particularly to small and midsize businesses (SMBs), as it reduces the need for upfront capital investment.

The biggest of the three providers, a consortium led by Singapore Computer Systems (SCS) and Hewlett-Packard, officially launched its collaboration Wednesday. In a media briefing, the companies said the new grid computing platform named Alatum will go to market with 20 partners including Citrix Systems, Haley, IBM WebSphere Commerce, Microsoft, Red Hat and Salesforce.com. Apart from on-demand applications such as CRM (customer relationship management), e-commerce, ERP (enterprise resource planning) and business management, the partnership will also avail 2,400 cores and 16 terabytes of storage.

Alvin Kok, SCS' executive vice president for international, said the monthly subscription for the services and applications will range between S$18 (US$11.94) and S$1,500 (US$995.40) per user. The consortium has three local and regional launch customers, and aims to have 700 customers on board within three years, said Kok.

Leslie Ong, general manager (sales) for HP's technology solutions group in Singapore, said SCS and HP have invested up to S$20 million (US$13.3 million) in the initiative. The consortium is also looking to invest an additional 1,000 cores and 9TB of storage within the next 12 months.

Alatum, said HP, is possibly the biggest computing grid in Singapore. University grids typically have a small cluster of eight to 10 CPUs, while Alatum has 300.

SCS' Kok noted that the commercial grid computing platform provided a high value proposition to enterprises, particularly in the current economic climate, which made it timely for companies to evaluate "how they do business".

HP's Ong noted that HP had launched its own utility computing service in the island-state five years ago, but that "is very much different" from Alatum. The earlier initiative, he explained, was a "quite successful" one which enabled customers to pay for infrastructure located in their premises on a utility basis. Alatum customers, on the other hand, do not have to manage any IT infrastructure.

A second consortium led by NewMedia Express, now named nGrid, will offer on a pay-per-use basis, applications such as Microsoft Office, virtualization, ERP, remote managed backup, Web content management and remote content publishing. According to Alan Woo, director of NewMedia Express, the services are priced from S$10 (US$6.64) monthly per user.

In an e-mail, Woo said the consortium, which includes Fujitsu Asia, Microsoft and 1-Net Singapore, is targeting to add 50 to 100 new customers a month. "Our target audience is mainly the SOHO (small office home office) and [SMBs]--a majority group of users that do not have a complete IT infrastructure," he noted, adding that such users typically host a standalone server at home or in a data center that has no firewall security, daily backup or high-availability capabilities.

Woo said moving forward, nGrid plans to add new services relevant to SMBs, such as voice over IP, call-center management, digital media streaming, content management and video or 3D rendering.

The third service provider--PTC System--will provide storage-as-a-service as part of Singapore's commercial grid initiative, will price its service at S$1 (US$0.66) for each gigabyte of storage a month. In an e-mail interview, PTC System's managing director S.S. Lim said that the company will allocate more than 12TB of storage for the service and will scale that over time.

PTC System said earlier, its service will be offered to research institutions at launch and only commercially in 2009. Lim confirmed to ZDNet Asia Wednesday that there is no change to the schedule, but added that the company is working to offer the services commercially "as soon as possible".

The IDA said in June the government would help generate up to 40 percent of the demand for the grid services, but the Authority, which oversees the government's IT deployments, has to date not confirmed any public sector take-up. Alatum representatives said Wednesday the consortium is "in talks" with some government agencies on adoption, while PTC System's Lim said the company is "working with the IDA" to use the storage space to host data for biomedical research.

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