A sole governing body seems unlikely as vendors squabble about who rules what Enterprise software behemoth Oracle aims to form a new information technology (IT) standards group to lead a worldwide initiative that it calls Enterprise Grid Computing. The move, mentioned by Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison and several company executives last week, would challenge the existing standards bodies that have shaped the so-called distributed computing concept in recent years. Grid computing is not new, but it has only been recently that software firms started deploying grids in a business setting. In the past, distributed networks such as the SETI@home alien-spotting project used spare computing resources to create massive distributed networks, but the modern grid can spread entire computer applications and databases across a wider range of computer platforms. Backers such as IBM see grid computing as a public utility, much like a national power grid. Grid standards to date have been formed by generally non-profit groups, including the World Wide Web Consortium, Global Grid Forum, Globus and the Web Service-Interoperability Organisation. In Asia, grids that are now being deployed include Singapore's one-gigabit-per-second National Grid Pilot Project and China's 100 million yuan (HK$94.2 million) nationwide 863 Grid Project. The Hong Kong government and several universities are keen to pursue academic and research grids. Mr Ellison believes existing grid standards are too academically orientated and fail to address the needs of commercial enterprises. 'I don't care about those grids,' he said. 'Those grids are great for looking for life on other planets.' He said the differences between Oracle's and IBM's grid computing efforts were that IBM's 'monolithic' focus had been on research data, stored on large multiprocessor blade servers. Oracle's vision is to see large racks of inexpensive two- and four-processor servers with Intel chips running the Linux operating system, which can easily scale up or down as demand on the network changes. Mr Ellison said: 'We have hundreds and hundreds of customers that are using the Rac (real application clusters) technology now, and we think we will have thousands and even 10,000 customers on the grid in the next couple of years and they will be on the enterprise grid. That's very different to what IBM is doing, which is talking about grids.' Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina said the industry was converging on open standards and grid protocols of established standards bodies were being integrated with HP's software. She said that without open standards, the grid could 'end up as a series of proprietary, non-interoperable technology islands'. 'The sheer size and complexity of it increases the risks,' she said. 'Those risks have to get worked out before a CIO [chief information officer] can get close to consider using it. Certifiable trust is a requirement before a CIO will consider using it.' Executives at last week's Oracle OpenWorld developers' conference in San Francisco would not give details on when or how the proposed new grid computing standards group would be formed. 'It's a little premature to name names, because people don't want to commit to anything until we've come up with some standards,' said Chuck Rozwat, executive vice-president for database server technologies at Oracle. He said Oracle supported open standards, but added that the prospective Enterprise Grid Forum would address different issues than the Global Grid Forum. Sean Tetpon, a spokesman for the IBM Software Group, dismissed Oracle's claims. He denied that IBM supported only academic grid projects and pointed to more than 100 grid customers in nine industries including financial services, oil, electronics and retail. 'IBM is not aware of Oracle's effort to form a commercial grid consortium,' Mr Tetpon said. 'IBM is leading the grid movement, working with industry and academic leaders on the Globus Project and the Global Grid Forum [GGF] to introduce grid technology to customer environments. 'Oracle's grid strategy is to rip and replace infrastructure and centralise everything in its database, which promotes vendor lock-in and fails to take advantage of non-Oracle resources and existing information assets,' he said.