More mature P2P technology is enterprise-ready

Meredith B. Derby, Assistant News Editor

Over that past year, peer-to-peer computing has become a mainstream corporate computing tool. We mostly have Napster to thank for this awakening. Even before Napster, there was, and still is, a project called SETI@home, wherein the power of idle home computers captures and processes data collected from space. The data is then analyzed to further the research into extraterrestrial life. Though, Ontario, Canada-based Platform Computing is not looking for ET, Paul Renaud, Director of Product Strategy for the Distributed Resource Management (DRM) giant, spoke to searchWindowsManageability about their recently announced P2P, Windows-based product, LSF Active Cluster. The enterprise customer-based product channels the power of Windows 2000 desktops even while users are at work.

searchWindowsManageability: Why did Platform Computing choose the Windows operating system as the basis of its new product?

The reality of the corporate desktop is that it is dominated by Windows machines. We don't see that changing very much in the near future at all because of the fact that price performance continues to be very compelling for these environments. We believe that the appropriate response to leveraging peer-to-peer technologies is to actually exploit and optimize for the Windows environment rather than ignore and try

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to do some more Internet-centric thing. As we know Microsoft is making significant strides with the .Net initiative to actually transform the environment to make it more network enabled anyway.

searchWindowsManageability: Can you explain Active Cluster in more detail?

What Active Cluster is an enterprise P2P product designed for the enterprise. It's not part of some Internet technology; it's not trying to take processing outside to the Internet. What it does is it distributes processing within an intranet to the Windows machines that companies have.

searchWindowsManageability: What are some benefits enterprises can expect to see from using the product?

The primary benefit is to be able to run large numbers of analysis in parallel. It's not a tool for the average desktop user. In fact, it's a tool typically for specialized communities within an enterprise. Let's take for example a large pharmaceutical company. The primary beneficiaries of this would be the researchers who require access to larger amounts of computational capabilities in order for them to design new drugs and exploit the genome technologies that they're working on. The way this works is that the existing horsepower that's in all these Windows machines throughout an enterprise is basically harnessed by LSF Active Cluster and made available to these researchers at no incremental capital cost. Rather than running out and buying a huge supercomputer to do their analysis on, they're able to do this in parallel across all these Windows machines.

searchWindowsManageability: How are desktop users affected from the incorporation of LSF Active Cluster?

All of this happens surreptitiously, if you will. The user is entirely unaware that this is happening. The reality is that even a busy desktop user rarely uses more than about ten percent of the total CPU capacity. The rest just goes unused in between the keystrokes, as it were.

searchWindowsManageability: How exactly is the power "harnessed"?

In the SETI@home project, they use a screensaver to harness the power. The reality is there is a lot of power that's unused in between your keystrokes. Our approach, because we're optimized for Windows, we install a Windows background service and, in fact, we rely on the Windows Scheduler in order to ensure that we harness the available nips that are there to be harnessed. As a result, we ring more of out that available desktop capacity than pretty much any other solution because we're so tightly integrated with the operating environment. We can guarantee that we're not infringing on the desktop because we can use features that are now in Windows for file quotas and memory limits and processing limits and so on.

searchWindowsManageability: Does Active Cluster incorporate with Microsoft's .Net initiative?

I think we're the first vendor to use P2P technology using some of the key .Net protocols. As an example, we implement SOAP in order to communicate between the desktops and the rest of the LSF environment.

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