Shirky on Grid Computing

Shirky: Grid Supercomputing: The Next Push:

We have historically overestimated the value of connecting machines to one another, and underestimated the value of connecting people, and by emphasizing supercomputing on tap, the proponents of Grids are making that classic mistake anew. During the last great age of batch processing, the ARPAnet’s designers imagined that the nascent network would be useful as a way of providing researchers access to batch processing at remote locations. This was wrong, for two reasons: first, it turned out researchers were far more interested in getting their own institutions to buy computers they could use locally than in using remote batch processing, and Moore’s Law made that possible as time passed. Next, once email was ported to the network, it became a far more important part of the ARPAnet backbone than batch processing was. Then as now, access to computing power mattered less to the average network user than access to one another.

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