The surface of the Earth spans 196.94 million square miles. With the rarest of exceptions, every person, object, and thing with which we interact exists somewhere on or near its surface — or to be more precise, somewhere in the vertical band extending 12 miles up through the troposphere and 7½ miles down, to the bottom of the world’s deepest well.
The Internet occupies this entire space. It consists of vast, ever-extending tendrils of network, data and compute reaching to connect every “thing” — every person, device, sensor, and machine.
Patrick Flynn calls it the “largest thing mankind will ever build,” and it might very well be.
The Ever-Evolving Internet
One thing is for certain: The Internet we built is not the Internet we need. And that’s precisely the thesis and opportunity embraced by the Open Grid Alliance (OGA).
Today’s Internet was built for humans. It was built to deliver content and services to people. Its power originates in massive, centralized hyperscale data centers pumping massive amounts of data through a byzantine network of best-effort BGP routes bolstered by highly-distributed caches of CDN-hosted content.
At no point in history has the Internet we built been the Internet we need. The very beginnings of the Internet were modest. In 1969, the primordial Internet connected just two locations: Los Angeles to Palo Alto. Its crowning achievement was sending a thimbleful of characters (literally, the letters “LO”) before the system crashed. By 1970, the network had four nodes. In 1993 there were fewer than 700 web sites and no such thing as a 4K streaming video.
As the Internet has grown, and as its use cases evolved, it has been patched and extended to become the Internet of today. The Internet is and has always been a constantly evolving amalgamation of physical infrastructure and software. The demand for it to solve new problems is unrelenting. Change is continuous, interminable, and inevitable.
Yet today’s Internet, for all its wonder and power, is no match for capturing, transmitting, storing, and analyzing the petabytes of data generated by the soon-to-be trillions of sensors operating 24/7, let alone delivering the real-time AI inferencing required to drive our robotic factories, augmented realities, haptic telepresence, or imagined metaverses. But today’s Internet will evolve. We can rearchitect and rebuild key pieces of the Internet to support these new use cases at global scale.
Open Grid Rising
Today the Open Grid Alliance crossed a major milestone, announcing the organization’s official formation as a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization and the formation of a provisional board comprised of representatives from Dell Technologies, Deutsche Telekom, Vapor IO and VMware. The provisional board will establish the formal board of directors and the organizational structure that supports the organization’s mission.
First announced in April 2021, the OGA today unveiled the addition of 27 founding companies that span all layers of the infrastructure and software stacks, from a host of innovative startups like Zededa and Macrometa, to data center real estate and fiber companies like CBRE and Crown Castle, to technology giants like Intel, Arm, and Amazon Web Services.
The OGA believes the Open Grid is the inevitable evolution of the Internet. Like the power grid, from which it gathers its metaphorical inspiration, the Open Grid will organize, broker and federate Internet resources where they are needed (primarily, but not entirely, at the edge), and deliver them to applications and services when and where they are needed, on demand, and with guarantees and SLAs. The Open Grid is the purposeful integration of hardware, software, networking, and infrastructure technologies to support the next generation of emerging applications.
The OGA exists to promote deep collaboration and open architectures that will enable the dynamic and geo-distribution of workloads and the instantaneous “hypercomposition” of infrastructure to support them
OGA Structure and Workstreams
The Open Grid Alliance exists to define Open Grid principles and identify interoperable technologies that can be used to implement them. It’s not a standards organization; it’s a catalyst for innovation and implementation. The organization will serve the key Internet stakeholders, from cloud providers to developers, from hardware suppliers to communication service providers (CSPs), from governmental agencies to end users.
As with any organization, the OGA has an organizational structure that includes an executive committee, a program office and other supervisory and managerial activities.
One of the organization’s stated goals is to minimize administrative overhead and focus the bulk of its resources on the key workstreams that can be geared towards delivering practical solutions to market. As currently envisioned, these workstreams are:
- Grid Think Tank – develop a long-term technological vision for the Open Grid and develop a plan to drive toward that vision while, balancing near-term engineering challenges with long-term objectives.
- Grid Innovation Zones – establish open-innovation ecosystems in targeted metropolitan areas in order to drive discovery, implementation, and verification of Open Grid technologies, platforms and tools in service of real-world use cases.
- Grid Market Readiness – identify, create and systematize programs that accelerate the commercial delivery of Open Grid technologies, taking into account the needs and requirements for full-scale, global, and operational deployment of the Open Grid.
Each of these workstreams operates semi-independently but explicitly feeds and shapes the adjacent workstream with the ultimate goal of delivering practical solutions that are commercially viable. As market-ready blueprints emerge from the OGA, commercial entities, probably composed largely of member companies, will be responsible for taking those blueprints to market. The OGA will support these commercial activities at arm’s length, relying instead on the entrepreneurial verve and mercantile innovation of member companies to bring the technologies to automate life at scale.
A First Open Grid Technology Building Block: The Multi-Cloud Services Grid
In the spirit of driving towards commercial implementations, VMware and Vapor IO have already integrated VMware’s Telco Cloud Platform with Vapor IO’s Kinetic Grid to simplify the delivery of 5G systems and real-time edge services. Dubbed the Multi-Cloud Services Grid (MCSG), the combined technology leverages Vapor IO’s infrastructure telemetry system (called Synse) with VMware’s virtualization and orchestration technology. The MSCG allows applications to request resources from the grid, which are then automatically assembled and made available to the requesting app. Hypercomposing, the act of delivering a tightly coupled set of real-time resources on-demand, will make it possible to deliver network functions, applications, and services at the moment they are needed, deploying them autonomously and algorithmically across the Open Grid based on the needs of the application
The MCSG is merely one example of how the OGA anticipates member companies collaborating on integrated technology stacks which are built with Open Grid principles, and which are designed to bring the Open Grid to life in a commercially viable way.
A First Open Grid Go to Market: INZONE
Delivering technologies from OGA workstreams to market depends on commercial programs built by member companies. One such program is Vapor IO’s INZONE, launched recently in Las Vegas. INZONE is specifically designed to accelerate the implementation of Industry 4.0 applications using Open Grid concepts. INZONE is not officially affiliated with the OGA, but it is the first of many anticipated collaborations designed to bring Open Grid technologies to market.
The INZONE program in Las Vegas incorporates solutions from Vapor IO, VMware, Amazon Web Services, Guavas (a Thales company), Hivelocity, ITRenew, Lenovo, Terbine, and Terranet Communications. It consists of full-stack “dirt to cloud” Open Grid infrastructure delivered as a platform for Industry 4.0 applications that include use-cases focusing on key industry verticals, including smart cities and autonomous systems, gaming and entertainment, conventions and events, healthcare and retail services, casinos, manufacturing, warehousing, and logistics. An independent study conducted by Tolaga Research concludes that INZONE has the potential to unlock USD 28.9 billion in cumulative GDP contributions to Clark County over the five years between 2021 and 2025 and $115.8 billion over the ten years between 2021 and 2030. These estimates predict a 3.8 percent CAGR in Clark County’s GDP with INZONE and a 2.5 percent CAGR without INZONE.
It’s very early days for the Open Grid and the Open Grid Alliance, but the vision and ambitions have resonated with the industry and the OGA member companies have already started coming together to demonstrate viable commercial Open Grid solutions. The Open Grid is a global project seeking to involve all motivated stakeholders in rearchitect the Internet – which will transform how we work, live and play.
For more information on joining the Open Grid Alliance, visit the OGA Web Site.
To relish in the vision and possibilities of an Open Grid, check out Kaniz Mahdi’s Re-imagining the Internet for Planet Scale Automation.
To explore today’s news in detail, read the press release.