What’s the Difference Between Grid and Cloud Computing

“Grid computing” and “cloud computing” are terms that get confused and mixed up a lot. Although they’re somewhat similar in theory, they’re also every different… and not interchangeable.

Cloud computing is the one that most of us are familiar with. This is where you get access to the resources of an independent 3rd party over the internet. In other words, they are remotely hosted applications.

Common examples include:

  • Web-based email
  • Web-based accounting systems
  • Web-based credit card software

Also within the “cloud computing” family, are what’s known as “Software as a Service” or SaaS applications. These are lightweight software clients that are installed on your server, but do all of their heavy lifting using someone else’s infrastructure. Some common examples include:

  • VOIP phones
  • Online backup
  • Video games with online play capability

Grid computing, however, occurs when the processing power of an application or service is distributed across multiple systems. This is usually done in order to increase processing capacity or improve system resiliency.

Some common grid computing examples include:

  • SETI @ Home
  • Peer-to-Peer file sharing

Grid computing also has special applications within the enterprise space. For example, a company may decide to virtualize their database system so that the application could be hosted across multiple redundant datacenters. In the event that one of these systems should fail, the application could keep running without interruption.

This may seem like a small difference, but it’s important.
If, instead of hosting their database across multiple servers, they decided to host it with a third-party company that specialized in hosting these types of databases… then it would be a Database-as-a-Service. This is a type of SaaS.

It’s no longer distributed because their role has changed from systems operator to client. Someone else is handling the entire infrastructure for them.

With cloud computing, your company gets cost-savings and convenience. With grid computing, your company gets power and flexibility. When developing your IT strategy, consider the benefits of both approaches.

When applied with the appropriate strategic focus, each of these strategies can be effective tools in helping to meet your cost, quality, security and efficiency objectives.