Grid Computing Slowed by Traditional License Models

By Clint Boulton | Mar 18, 2005 | Print this Page

Grid computing is being hampered, says new research from The 451 Group. And it's because IT departments can't afford to buy software licenses for every processor or device on a grid network for each application they intend to run on that grid.

Grid network software creates efficiencies in computing systems by simultaneously applying the resources of many computers in a network to a problem.

Unfortunately, purchasing licenses for every chip or machine in a grid is a requirement under current licensing schemes, said Steve Wallage, director of research at The 451 Group.

The traditional model becomes impractical in high-performance computing scenarios that involve thousands of machines, such as Montecarlo simulations for financial firms, he said.

"The way the current software pricing works — per processor, per device, or per user — is antithetical to the whole ideal of grid, where you're working on multiple devices," Wallage said in an interview Thursday. "You want the maximum flexibility. You're not going to be working on the same device all of the time, or in the same way."

The problem is that current enterprise software licensing models have been built around dated notions of enterprise application use, creating a quandary for enterprise network admins who want to run grid applications.

But if customers can't afford to run the applications, it causes a major problem for companies who either make grid computing software, or support it with servers. HP, IBM and Platform Computing are among a number of vendors that make such software or hardware and stand to be adversely affected by the dilemma.

Demand for and interest in grid environments isn't decreasing, so something needs to give. Evolving computing requirements in the industry will lead to new procurement models in the software space, as well as demands for instrumentation and management to support new license models, Wallage predicted.

"We see a lot of pressure but we don't really think there's going to be a revolution as much as the users would like to see that," he continued. "The thing that will change it more than anything is when one of the larger vendors like IBM really tries to encompass grid into its licensing model, which is something that they are really looking at."

Part of the evolution is a move to more utility computing environments, something that is already starting to take off in vertical industries, such as financial services, or in pharmaceuticals for drug discovery, thanks to strong marketing pushes from IBM and Sun Microsystems.

The challenge will be to offset the potential loss of revenue for vendors with greater value and lower cost for customers, The 451 Group said.

In the meantime, companies are circumventing the licensing issue by using applications they developed based on open source software; coaxing custom deals from vendors; or by paying a premium for one or two applications integral to the business. Article originally appeared on