Two years ago, Carl Kesselman and I published a rather lengthy paper that purports to recount the “history of the grid.” (I. Foster, C. Kesselman, The History of the Grid (PDF), in Cloud Computing and Big Data, IOS Press, Amsterdam , 2013; 37 pages, 176 references).
We believe that this paper includes useful material. We also know that it can be much improved, and to that end we plan a second edition. We invite suggestions for improvements. For example: What did we get wrong? What work did we forget to mention? What do you see as the most important accomplishments of the grid community? The most important influences? The most egregious failures? Please feel free to email directly (See “Contact” in menu) or make a comment. Reference line number(s), if you can. We cannot promise to address every suggestion, but we will consider them all carefully.
The following introductory paragraphs summarize the paper’s intent:
In the 1990s, inspired by the availability of high-speed wide area networks and challenged by the computational requirements of new applications, researchers began to imagine a computing infrastructure that would “provide access to computing on demand” and permit “flexible, secure, coordinated resource sharing among dynamic collections of individuals, institutions, and resources”.
This vision was referred to as the Grid, by analogy to the electric power grid, which provides access to power on demand, achieves economies of scale by aggregation of supply, and depends on large-scale federation of many suppliers and consumers for its effective operation. The analogy is imperfect, but many people found it inspiring.
Some 15 years later, the Grid more or less exists. We have large-scale commercial providers of computing and storage services, such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Federated identity services operate, after a fashion at least. International networks spanning hundreds of institutions are used to analyze high energy physics data and to distribute climate simulation data. Not all these developments have occurred in ways anticipated by the Grid pioneers, and certainly much remains to be done; but it is appropriate to document and celebrate this success while also reviewing lessons learned and suggesting directions for future work. We undertake this task in this article, seeking to take stock of what has been achieved as a result of the Grid research agenda and what aspects of that agenda remain important going forward.
The figure, by the way, depicts the GUSTO testbed that we and many collaborators established in 1997 to experiment with the then-new Globus software.