Grid computing - coming real soon

Managed to stagger over to Prague last week for a conference to discuss the future of the Internet and how the industry is preparing for Grid networking .

Grid networking differs from today's Internet in that users are truly interlinked with each other, rather than using a tree and branch network like the Internet is today.

A lot has been spoken about the need for high levels of security on the Grid networking model, but from what I've learned so far, I think the current levels of authentication and encryption are good enough for the world of Grid networking.

The elements of Grid networking are already in place, it seems, as many countries already have the capability to operate an autonomous Internet that only links with other country networks when data needs to be interchanged, such as for email and page updates.

This is made possible by having whole swathes of the Internet cached on a local country server or group of servers. The cost savings involved with moving to a country cached Internet model are immense, so I predict that a number of countries will move to this model in the not-too-distant future.

The trend will be accelerated by the introduction of two-tier tariffs for the Internet. A flat rate for local country data and services, plus an ad-hoc - but still low - per megabyte rate for international data access.

These charges will be reduced - or even negated - by the revenue generated from users looking at your own public material on the Grid network. The sums involved will probably only be a few pence per user, but, for a Web site that gets a lot of readers, the revenue issues could be quite interesting.

The most interesting aspect of Grid networking - which could arrive by the end of the decade - is going to be user authentication, which will be achieved through the use of two-factor authentication devices, either using dedicated tokens such as RSA's SecurID, or a mobile phone with an authentication applet pre-loaded.

Thanks to the use of authenticated devices, it will become possible for users to access their `personal Net' from anywhere on the Grid, allowing them to interact with their database, spreadsheet and word processing files across the Grid network itself.

This will be achieved, say the experts, through the use of VPN tunneling and high levels of encryption.

Sure, the encryption will have magnificent overheads in terms of data bandwidth, but when you're dealing in tens of megabits per second, what's a little encryption between pals?

Interesting stuff. I can't say which conference all this stems from for commercial reasons, but I can say that Grid networking will arrive sooner than you might think...