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Stephen Shankland

Staff Writer, CNET

In the latest effort to put corporate teeth into the amorphous idea of grid computing, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Intel have banded together, forming a new group called the Globus Consortium.

The consortium will try to steer an open-source software package called the Globus Toolkit, which helps universities, companies and other customers run software on large groups of networked computers called grids. Grids today are chiefly used for high-performance computing tasks such as climate simulation, but computing companies believe they’ll eventually run mainstream business software as well.

Other members of the consortium are Univa, which is commercializing the Globus Toolkit, and Nortel Networks.

Univa executives Ian Foster, Carl Kesselman and Steve Tuecke will help set the consortium’s direction. Greg Nawrocki, who like Kesselman and Foster previously worked at Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago, is president of the consortium.

The consortium will promote grid standardization efforts, teach customers about grids and hear what they’d like added, and fund work to bolster the Globus Toolkit, Nawrocki said.

The term “grid” means different things to different people–even to fellow consortium members such as IBM and Sun. Oracle, for example, has named its newest database product 10g–and “g” stands for grid, though the database can span only a handful of very tightly connected servers.

The Globus Consortium isn’t the only group trying to set the grid agenda. Oracle co-founded the Enterprise Grid Alliance. The Global Grid Forum is working on grid standards. And the Globus Toolkit itself is developed by a group called the Globus Alliance.

The consortium won’t intrude on that standards-setting work, Nawrocki said. “We’re not trying to be a standards body and compete with GGF and EGA,” he said. “Our goal is not to develop standards, but to…accelerate adoption of standards through the open-source Globus Toolkit.”