A new P2P distributed computing entry -- but not from a startup
by Marc Hedlund
Platform Computing of Toronto has long been the leader in "traditional" distributed computing software products -- that is, software to build clusters of dedicated servers (usually UNIX machines) for high-performance computing. Since 1992, they have developed and sold their industry-leading product LSF ("Load Sharing Facility") to companies with large-scale computational problems. While they have remained relatively low profile, their product has an excellent reputation in a wide range of industries, including life sciences, aerospace, automotive, financial services, and entertainment.
When a new wave of distributed computing startups (including my last company, Popular Power) emerged using the SETI@home model of harvesting idle time from desktop computers, Platform protested that they had been doing P2P all along. Apparently they've decided to take things a step further, and have released a product, LSF ActiveCluster, aimed specifically at the desktop computing resources scattered around corporations.
One interesting note in the interview is that Platform has decided to use SOAP as a communication protocol for their P2P systems -- pushing this as ".NET integration." I have to wonder if they will go beyond SOAP to use some of .NET's more platform-specific features, such as Passport or Hailstorm.
Platform's P2P product targets Windows-based desktops exclusively, but their product line as a whole provides strong support for UNIX systems currently used as clusters. It will be interesting to see how the startup P2P distributed computing players, such as Entropia and DataSynapse, fare against this well-established and well-known player.
The Distributed Computation track at O'Reilly's Peer-to-Peer Conference, coming up this September 18-21, 2001 in Washington, D.C., will feature many of the distributed computing companies discussing their product offerings -- and perhaps defending against this new entry from Platform.