Fabric Computing: Nothing to Do with Cotton Blends

Loraine Lawson

While I was reading about Gartner's list of 10 strategic technologies for 2008 recently, I noticed that, in addition to proving my point about IT and the fashion industry, ("So what's new about green IT for 2008?" they wrote), the piece offered this quote from Carl Claunch, an analyst at Gartner, about computing fabrics:

The fabric based server of the future will treat memory, processors and I/O cards are components in a pool, combining and recombining them into particular arrangements to suit the owner's needs. That is, a large server can be created by combining 32 processors and a number of memory modules from the pool, operating together over the fabric to appear to an operating system as a single fixed server.

Early last year, IT Business Edge interviewed Dr. Sharad Mehrotra, president, CEO and founder, Fabric7, which, as the name implies, offers fabric computing solutions. We asked him to explain fabric computing. Here's what he said:

The simplest way to think about it is the next-generation architecture for enterprise servers. Fabric computing combines powerful server capabilities and advanced networking features into a single server structure. ... In the fabric computing view, resources are no longer tied to a single machine. A customer buying a typical server does not know exactly how to configure it or what applications to run. In our systems, you're not locked into a predetermined set of assets. You can reconfigure on the fly without adding software layers that slow everything down. Everything is done on hardware at full speed. Remember, we're not talking about just changing CPU memory. We're talking about changing the network I/O. It reduces a lot of the complexity that customers struggle with. You no longer reconfigure machine by machine. You have complete control of the entire fabric.

If it sounds like grid computing, that's because essentially it is an evolution of it - though it's hard to determine which came first. It turns out the term "fabric computing" dates back to at least 1998, when Erick and Linda von Schweber, founders of the Infomaniacs, published an article in eWEEK using the term, describing it as "a new architecture" that would "erase the distinctions between network and computer" by linking "thousands of processors and storage devices into a single system," according to this 2002 eWEEK article.


But that's how it is with fashion and technology. Eventually, everything old is new again.

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