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EMC buys grid software, offers hosted services

Jo Maitland, Senior Executive Editor

EMC Corp. today announced that it has acquired the intellectual property for grid software developed by Acxiom Corp. for $30 million, and will work with the company to offer grid-based hosted services. Acxiom is a $1.2 billion company based in Little Rock, Ark.

Specifically, EMC has acquired the grid middleware that Acxiom uses for internal purposes to run its hosted business analytics service. Acxiom's customers include Citigroup, Bank of America, BMW, Charles Schwab, Sears, Nationwide, Western Union, Sprint, Discovery Communications Inc. and Unilever that buy data mining, data hygiene and other business analytics services from Acxiom on a hosted basis. Acxiom is the only company that has deployed the grid software

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According to Ian Baird, chief technology officer of grid and utility computing at EMC, Acxiom's software includes all the elements to build a complete grid, such as security tools, grid portals, directory and scheduling services, databases and other components. "It's a complete stack unlike many point solutions for grid … the Globus toolkit is a collection of different elements," Baird said.

Within two years EMC plans to sell this grid software to customers in a nonhosted scenario. "It will allow a company to provide IT services against its infrastructure on a utility basis," Baird said. The vision is for IT resources to be much more flexible, and to be available and paid for on demand, improving utilization and lowering costs. EMC said the grid software can run other applications besides business analytics, for healthcare, retail and other industries.

But if grids are so great, why are so few organizations implementing them?

"Most deployments are in stealth mode," according to Baird. "Many of the Fortune 2000 companies are doing it but they are reluctant to talk about new procurement." He says they are also building it out on an incremental basis, in certain departments.

"There's still a lot of work to be done around standards and there's incredible politics" with grid technology. "It's about sharing of resources and people don't like to share … they don't want to lose control of resources and security is also a major issue," he said.

The interim hosted services offering EMC will sell with Acxiom competes directly with Sun Microsystems Inc. and IBM's grid computing services. "It makes sense, these are EMC's competitors going forward," said Brian Babineau, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group Inc.

IBM and Sun have been building different types of grid offerings for years. Sun leases CPU cycles to its customers on a hosted basis and IBM uses the Globus open source grid toolkit and has built out services against that.

Globus is also open source and works closely with the grid standards bodies, while Acxiom has forged ahead and built its own architecture. Baird, who sits on the Global Grid Forum said "the standards are still emerging … we're a long way from standardization in grid … Acxiom hasn't waited for the standards." He adds that Acxiom's operating system uses Linux and is based on the most common tools in use.

EMC has created a grid incubation business unit, headed up by Baird, to build grid-based products and services. It will be part of EMC, but will use the company's existing technology, including VMWare, Smarts, Rainfinity, Documentum and Invista to build grid offerings.


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