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Grid Computing: Definition, Components & Examples

Instructor: David Gloag

David has over 40 years of industry experience in software development and information technology and a bachelor of computer science

In this lesson, we'll define Grid Computing, explore its major components, and give some examples of its use. At the end, you should have a good understanding of this important technique.

Using Technology to Solve Problems

We live in a technology-based world. And as such, computers make up a big part of our daily lives. They contribute to the news we consume, the organization of our finances, and even to our online experiences like shopping and social media. So, is it any wonder that we task them to the problems we need to solve? And not just the easy ones, the ones that shake the foundation of our lives, like curing cancer. If you think this is a monumental task, you are right. It is certainly more than any computer on your desk can handle. New methods are needed, methods that bring more computing resources to bear. One way is through the use of Grid Computing.

Grid Computing

Grid Computing is a type of distributed computing that combines the resources of interconnected groups of several independent computers that communicate through the use of a network in a way that makes them look and act like a single computing entity. Each computing task is broken down into smaller pieces and distributed throughout the available computing resources for execution. These pieces are processed in parallel, and as a result, completion is achieved in a smaller amount of time. For example, say we have the following equation:

  • Z = (2 x 3) + (1 x 7) + (4 x 6)

On a desktop computer, the steps needed to calculate a value for Z might look like:

  • Step 1: Z = 6 + (1 x 7) + (4 x 6)
  • Step 2: Z = 6 + 7 + (4 x 6)
  • Step 3: Z = 6 + 7 + 24
  • Step 4: Z = 37

In a Grid Computing scenario, the steps might look like (with three processors or computers):

  • Step 1: Z = 6 + 7 + 24
  • Step 2: Z = 37

As you can see, steps get combined in the Grid Computing scenario due to the multiplicity of resources. The overall effect is that fewer steps are needed, which translates into shorter time frames.

Components of Grid Computing

In terms of components, Grid Computing looks much like a desktop computer and contains:

  • Processors - the brains of the computer, the part that performs any needed calculations or processing.
  • Memory - temporary storage used for calculations or processing.
  • Storage - long term hold space used to contain needed information or results.
  • Software - programs used to control the resources, or perform needed processing.

There three major difference, though:

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