More Companies Are Going With the Grid

Grid computing (which is tying hundreds of regular personal computers into one huge network, rather than relying on a single-source server) has been gaining speed, and one company claims the grid is the best way to truly capture the benefits of the real-time enterprise. Earlier this year the concept of grid computing was touted by Oracle as the next wave in dealing with megaloads of data. "It's capacity on demand. Plug another server into the grid and the application runs faster and more reliably, and the capacity is inexpensive," says Larry Ellison, Oracle's CEO. Ellison says that a single IBM mainframe compared with an Oracle grid built with inexpensive Intel-based blades will result in a 30-to-1 cost savings for customers. One company is taking Ellison's theory and putting it into practice. Acxiom, a data management outsourcer specializing in companies with large customer data marts, has been building its own grid system for the past two years, and says the investment is really starting to pay off. "Our challenge is to process customer data warehouses that are as large as the U.S. population," says Charles Morgan, Acxiom company leader. "The desktop computer is the lowest cost computing capacity, and its capabilities are growing at an expanding rate. It allows us to process data faster, cheaper, and better than ever before." Morgan adds that the grid has been more reliable than creating one central server. "We have had it up and running for two years without it failing one time," he notes, explaining that since the grid is made of hundreds of desktops, one or more can crash without the problem effecting the data management project at hand. In addition to increased reliability Morgan says that the grid system is helping the company realize the promise of the real-time enterprise. "It used to take us 27 days to process and update the six billion records in our information repository," he says. "Now it takes just three days." Morgan also says that Acxiom's customers now have the benefit of being able to update and cleanse millions of customer records in a fraction of the time it used to take prior to grid computing, leading to more effective and cheaper marketing efforts.
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