Grid computing is an often misunderstood concept, particularly among laymen who often associate it with computer networking. That's understandable because, although superficially similar, it is a highly specialized computing discipline with very specific applications.
The best way to get a better understanding of computer grids is to develop a feeling for the differences between grids and conventional computing networks.
What Is Grid Computing and How Does It Work
In ultra-simplistic terms, grid computing is a system of digital task delegation. Think of it in terms of a busy five-star kitchen. It would be impossible for the head chef to prepare every dish, so he delegates different tasks to his staff.
In essence, grid computing is the process of splitting large, complex tasks into smaller, individual assignments delegated to different computing resources. In other words, each contributing computer performs a specific part of that task.
What are the benefits and structure of a computer grid?
Computer grids are based on a very specifically defined architecture and offer equally closely defined benefits.
Who would need a computer grid?
Practically, only very extensive and complex computing problems require computer grids. The true power of computer grids is particularly evident in large international grid administrators.
Computer grid architecture
A simple computer grid model consists of a central control node, which connects to local or distributed computing resources via load-sharing software. In simple terms, the client can use computers it owns or volunteered resources far from its base of operation.
Computer grid benefits
The major benefit of computer grids over single supercomputers lies in their flexibility and computing power. Using a computer grid for large amounts of data is more efficient than doing so on a single, memory-hungry supercomputer. It is also more reliable due to reduced downtime risks and is considerably less expensive.
Privacy concerns and security
There are privacy and security risks involved in using third-party resources for both client and host entities. However, trust management and authorization systems can significantly reduce these risks. Redundancy checks where two individual host resources perform similar, cross-checked tasks also minimize security issues.
Grid computing is an obvious data processing choice for large companies and academic institutes. It is efficient, affordable, and fast while delivering high levels of accuracy and data integrity. Computer grids can involve risks, but, as mentioned earlier, check and balance measures can greatly mitigate them.
In short, computer grids are one of the most attractive and cost-effective means of getting massive computing loads processed. And it's an area of computing technology that is growing fast as data loads increase exponentially across many industries.
If you'd like to learn more about computer grids, take a look at these books:
- Distributed Data Management for Grid Computing
- Grid Computing: A Practical Guide to Technology and Applications
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