Game On

It wasn’t so long ago that I wrote about the appearance of Linux – at least as a developer kit – on Sony’s Playstation 2 and warned that “The Penguin on the Playstation” might be the start of the first real competition that Windows has seen in over a decade.

Now I read that gaming is becoming a serious datacentre application in a release that tells me “IBM's ultra dense blade servers will be the backbone of a Linux-based grid that will enable millions of users and developers to access Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.'s PlayStation 2 games on the Internet”.

This is all about the arrival of ‘Grid computing’, a way of creating a single supercomputer by linking multiple servers together. It’s ‘The Matrix’ in real-life and resources can be shuffled between tens or even hundred’s of computers on demand.

When Microsoft originally planned its X-Box, it imagined that Broadband would be pervasive by the time it reached the market. This is one reason it made such a strong ‘play’ for the cable market in the States, with the idea that very soon, people would be running games over the Internet from Microsoft’s own ‘pay-per-game’ servers, with thousands of linked-up X-Boxes involved. This didn’t quite happen according to plan but the concept isn’t so far away anymore.

Grid computing on this scale isn’t quite ‘Plug and play’ just yet and some very powerful Middleware is required to make it all happen but IBM will reportedly use dual-Xeon BladeCenter servers in its hosting centres to run Butterfly. net’s middleware software on the grid. This illustrates what Microsoft first imagined and encouraged it to compete in a head-on clash with Sony; the migration of gaming from the console to the Internet.

IBM isn’t of course a culture you might readily associate with ‘Tomb Raider’ but it has 175 global hosting centres ready to support the PlayStation 2 grid if the anticipated demand appears.

Is Linux really up to the task? I met with the Open Group’s CEO, Alan Brown last week and we discussed Linux and where it works best. I mentioned that IBM, unlike Sun Microsystems, suggests that Linux is increasingly scalable and Brown remarked, that in his opinion Linux, which has a great ‘TCO’ message, would only “scale to thirty-two boxes” and if you want anything more, then you’re left with UNIX.

This leaves me thinking that the magic figure of ‘thirty-two’ isn’t quite on the scale of ‘The Matrix’ or even 175 global hosting centres, so I’m wondering what “Linux-based” really means and whether IBM executives will lose their blue suits and ties and start carrying skateboards in future?


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