Before the keynote from Oracle president Charles Philips Jr. even began, the signs leading into the auditorium asked audience members, "So, Linux is in the enterprise, what's next?"
By the time the keynote had ended, there was little doubt that Oracle would be putting a substantial amount of development, manpower and marketing into grid computing, and that the "next" for Linux was the integral role it would play in that strategy.
"Moore's Law is coming to an end … we are not seeing the same price performance improvement we have seen in the past," Phillips said.
The 18-month rule where chip performance would double and prices would drop no longer applies as strictly as it once did, Phillips continued.
The next logical step in this case, he said, is that vendors are quickly realizing multiple chip configurations are becoming a necessary component in the enterprise, as is the idea of grid computing.
Grid computing is applying the resources of many computers in a network to a single problem at the same time. In past years, such an application was limited to scientific or educational fields, but in 2005 a push for enterprise-level adoption has been seen from various groups.
Indeed, a push for grid computing had already started to gain momentum earlier this year, as groups like the Enterprise Grid Alliance (EGA) and the Globus Consortium sought to promote grid computing using the combined clout of industry big leaguers like Sun Microsystems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp. and IBM.
A commitment from Oracle could give grid computing the momentum it needs to break through what some analysts perceive as an information barrier.
Paul Strong, chairman of the EGA technical steering committee, said the key to understanding grid computing is both in breaking the user perception that it is complex to use while at the same time showing users how the technology can save money.
"When we talk to vendors about standard bodies, there are always slightly different names and descriptions for technologies that seem broadly similar," Strong said. "The largest value we are able to deliver is simple description clarity in what we mean by grid."
According to John Patrick, IBM's vice president for Internet strategies, "The next big thing will be grid computing."
After showcasing an IDC slide that showed Oracle leading IBM by a margin of 81% to 16% in worldwide share of the DBMS market, Phillips was more than happy to agree.
"[Users] can add capacity as needed … a grid looks like a single machine to a PC, to a developer and to the user," Phillips said. "You can scale up, scale out, you can do all of that, but mostly what we are seeing is people are grouping together their low cost computers."
Phillips said that by standardizing grid computing on Linux and Intel chips, more success stories, like those from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, would arrive on the enterprise scene. Vanderbilt University recently moved to a Linux- and Oracle-based grid computing environment.
While adoption is not as widespread as some at Oracle, IBM and others may like, experts have said grid computing appears to be a promising trend for several reasons. First and foremost is its ability to make more cost-effective use of a given amount of computer resources to approach and solve problems that cannot be solved without an enormous amount of computing power.
Charles King, principal analyst for Hayward, Calif.-based Pund-IT Research, said it would appear as though there is a growing demand for commercial grid applications, and Oracle obviously wants a piece of that.
However, King noted that the company's MegaGrid project (announced last December in conjunction with Dell and others) seemed to be closer to a conventional cluster than an actual grid.
"It's probably a matter of perspective, but I think the folks supporting and/or extending tools and apps developed via grid standards have the upper hand here," King said. "IBM's Grid and Grow [offering] leverages the company's BladeCenter solutions, offers Xeon, Opteron and Power servers, and supports Red Hat/SuSE Linux, Windows and AIX.