The state of New York is funding development of a data grid for backup storage uses by small and midsize businesses -- the types of companies state officials think are the least prepared to deal with disasters.
The effort fits squarely into an emerging trend in which state and local organizations are using grid technology to aid in business development. In New York's case, there's also a strong interest in ensuring that businesses can quickly recover data after any unforeseen events.
"Given the experiences that New York state has had as a result of Sept. 11, as well as taking a look at recurring natural and man-made disasters, it appears to make perfect business sense to explore the potential of grid and collaborative computing," said Jim Denn, a spokesman for the New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research, in Albany.
The grid project was proposed by Marist College in Poughkeepsie, and the school last month received an initial state grant of US$150,000 to develop a prototype that should be completed within a year. The full grid may take three years to put in place and will cost more than $500,000 for the development work, blade servers and storage-area network hardware, said Roger Norton, dean of the School of Computer Science and Mathematics at Marist.
Norton said the intent is to enable companies to use a Web service to routinely back up data on the grid in a way that's secure and meets regulatory requirements. The grid will store duplicates of the data at three different sites, located about 50 miles apart. That hews to the basic idea of a data grid, which is to create a virtual pool of information that isn't tied to a specific location.
By this time next year, Marist, which runs an IT program that has a long-standing affiliation with IBM, hopes to have several companies using the grid on a prototype basis. Once the grid is ready for widespread use, the technology will be transferred to a private-sector company for ongoing operations.
The grid's long-term storage requirements "could be very significant," depending on how many companies sign up to use it, Norton said. Three terabytes of storage space will be available for the pilot program, he said.
Denn said New York officials hope to use a series of grants to foster economic development and encourage business growth by paying for some of the technology research costs on the data grid project and future state initiatives.
Officials in other states also view grids as economic development tools. For instance, the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation is spearheading development of a computing grid to give businesses in that state access to more computational power. And officials in Cleveland are investigating the possibility of developing multiple data grids to link health care providers, schools and municipal agencies.
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