Now Complete, Grid Computing Spec is Proposed

While an exciting technology for software developers, grid computing — which entails the application of the resources of many computers to a single problem at the same time – is hardly a solid or secure one. Myriad standards are being worked through by organizations, such as the Global Grid Forum, actually implementing them is a ways off.

Sun Microsystems Tuesday took a sizeable step forward in its quest to get a grid computing standard developed when it said it has completed the first specification of a schema that makes the creation and dispersal of high-performance grid applications possible.

The final publication of the working draft version of the Distributed Resource Management Application API (DRMAA) (pronounced like “drama”) was announced at the Global Grid Forum 7 show in Tokyo. DRMAA features “write-once” capabilities to any DRM system that supports DRMAA, and makes it possible for new enterprise and technical applications to be used in a grid environment. Co-chaired by Sun and Intel, DRMAA was developed with other vendors, including Cadence Design Systems, HP, IBM, Platform Computing, Robarts Research Institute, and Veridian Systems.

DRMAA, according to Peter Jeffcock, Sun Group Marketing Manager for Grid Computing, will expand the reach of grid computing because it will make it easier for independent software vendors to make and promote grid computing applications.

Jeffcock said the specification provides for the submission and control of duties to one or more DRM systems — think Sun’s Grid One Engine or Intel’s OSCAR — letting the developers of applications employ a virtualized grid of computing resources — as opposed to a single computer system — as the main application execution environment. Simply, this mean new pieces of software can more easily be written. Users could also monitor, control retrieve finished data or even destroy it.

DRMAA eliminates a problem currently facing commercial software developers, namely proprietary interfaces that make integrating applications with DRM systems a chore. End users should also benefit from new powerful applications capable of putting the power of grid computing at their fingertips.

Jeffcock said DRMAA provides a standard on which ISVs can create new applications to run in distributed environments using a “write-once” interface; makes grid deployment and management easier for systems administrators; and paves the way for more sophisticated applications for end users.

The potential impact of DRMAA is more interesting on a practical plane. Jeffcock used the example of car design, where trying to find the perfect balance of strength and weight in a metal component of an automobile is vital.

“In the course of design, an engineer might recognize a trade off between the strength and the weight of the piece,” Jeffcock said. “Computers using DRMAA could perform a stochastic analysis, or tests to make it thicker or wider, and measure the way it buckles under stress. From that they could derive the exact trade off point at which they wouldn’t be sacrificing too much strength or weight to produce the balance necessary for the part. Rather than a user using a grid to calculate this, the computer would do it intuitively.”

Jeffcock said DRMAA joins other grid computing-oriented specs, such as Open Grid Services Infrastructure (OGSI), as schemas that have yet to reach fruition. He also said compared to other grid specs in the works, DRMAA stands a better chance of passing muster because of its extremely tight focus.

If DRMAA successfully negotiates a 60-day review period by the Global Grid Forum steering committee and the grid computing community, the item becomes a proposed Grid Forum document that is then subject to anywhere from six to 20 months of scrutiny by people who can implement and use it. When that period is over, it is officially a document, or standard.

Sun plans to create a reference implementation of the DRMAA specification in the Grid Engine open source project, which can be accessed here after the working draft passes muster.