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Monsters of the J2EE Gridiron

Monsters of the J2EE Gridiron

My friends arrived in town (Denver, CO - U.S.) last weekend and to their surprise, I told them I had four football (American football, that is...) tickets to the Broncos game on Sunday. That morning, we proceeded to tailgate, drink, and eat merrily; and then we entered the new "Mile High" stadium to watch our team trounce the unwitting opponent. My mind works overtime, as my wife would say, and as I watched the game it occurred to me that I was drawing comparisons to work-related matters rather than admiring the Broncos. In fact, I felt as though I were watching the future of software and hardware technologies, the "grid," in action. The American football field is often called the "gridiron" because numerous lines and zones divide it. The lines are helpful to players, who use them to determine where they should set up for the next play, or where they need to move during a play.

This is similar to how grid computing works. Grids aren't a new concept, but they have recently gained interest in the computing world for their ability to be self-managing and self-healing, and to automatically distribute computations across a cluster of processors. According to Cindee Mock, director of Competitive Intelligence, Sun Microsystems, Inc., "Grids create a virtualized system of networked resources, easing access for users and simplifying workflow and systems management." Sun has stiff competition from IBM, Dell, and HP, who partnered in September with BEA Systems to sell bundled hardware and software.

Essentially, an optimized grid-computing environment allows your applications to utilize every available ounce of CPU in the grid. This has major implications for J2EE applications, which are typically designed with performance, scalability, and fault-tolerance in mind. Imagine being able to lease space on a grid from your hosting provider's J2EE server farm on an "as-needed" basis. Your application would be monitored externally, or perhaps internally, automatically triggering the activation of itself onto another space in the grid.

The time taken for multiple users to perform seat checks at the football stadium would improve dramatically as processing would be spread across the grid automatically. Because ticket order processing for Broncos tickets is high volume during the initial day of the sale, but marginally low from then on, an application selling football tickets would use a grid, or grid-like, concept to scale up fast, then back down, with limited headaches for the application's system administrators.

The grid environment, or engine, allows an application to utilize only exactly what it needs. As grids and J2EE evolve together, numerous things will have to happen in the way of automatic discovery of services, automated deployment of applications (and even application servers), and of course the automated "undeployment" of applications and application servers. Also, to make the use of grids for J2EE applications convenient, managed service providers will host server farms capable of leasing grid time for overwhelmed applications. Hosting providers will bill on numerous models, but most likely on the number of grids used and time spent processing in each grid. Support and setup fees will be nominal since the grid engine will be set up to automatically handle the provisioning of the applications, tracking them, and even billing the customer at the specified time.

It was fun to watch the monsters of the gridiron (a.k.a. Denver Broncos) win, but I am just as excited to see J2EE and grid computing expand jointly in 2003. It may be too early to tell, but I am also betting that BEA and HP will successfully claim victory of J2EE on the gridiron in 2003 as well.

More Stories By Jason Westra

Jason Westra is the CTO of Verge Technologies Group, Inc. (www.vergecorp.com). Verge is a Boulder, CO based firm specializing in eBusiness solutions with Enterprise JavaBeans.

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