Distributed Computing Heads for the Cloud

Michael Vizard

Now that we have all this processing capacity available via the cloud, the leading lights of the industry are starting to turn their attention toward how to create a true distributed computing environment in the cloud.

Although it's expected that major players such as Microsoft, IBM and Oracle will all be moving down this path, right now it looks like two organizations that you have never heard of are leading the charge.

The first is a company called GigaSpaces, which has developed an eXtreme Application Platform environment for distributing Java and Microsoft.Net applications across the cloud. The company most recently partnered with GoGrid in terms of an infrastructure cloud provider, but is also expecting corporate customers to adopt its platform as the foundation for their own internal private clouds.

Right now, GigaSpaces has more than 300 customers using its software in production, so the concept of distributed computing in the cloud is definitely becoming more tangible.

A much more nascent effort involves a Swarm project effort that is being led by Ian Clarke, who is best remembered as the designer of Freenet, a popular peer-to-peer application. Clarke is trying to recruit open source developers to help him extend the new 'portable continuations' capability in the Scala programming language to create a full-fledged distributed computing environment.

The basic idea is that Scala language now allows a computational process to be essentially suspended and then moved to another processor anywhere on the network. Clarke concedes there is a lot of work to be done is terms of turning a prototype into a real platform, but again we have another instance where the feasibility of distributed computing in the cloud is being highlighted.

Distributed computing in the cloud definitely represents the next frontier. Ultimately, there will probably be multiple solutions to the challenge, but in the meantime whoever gets there first is going to have a substantial edge in a world where cloud computing services are already viewed as a commodity.

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