Microsoft Develops Grid Security Language
Microsoft has described plans to build a language for grid computing, a prototype of which was presented by Microsoft at the GridWorld 2006 conference on September 12th.
The purpose of the language will be to help secure and protect distributed computer systems. Blair Dillaway, a Microsoft scientist and member of the incubation team working at this project, presented the project at the GridWorld 2006 conference on September 12th. The group has developed a prototype of a grid security language that they have christened the "Security Policy Assertion Language" (secPAL).
According to Dillaway, the language is being developed to be able to describe "trust relationships, authorisation policies, delegation policies, identity and attribute assertions, capability assertions, revocations and audit requirements". The prototype emulates a multidomain grid environment using existing Microsoft products, including Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, the .NET framework, Windows Communication Foundation (which used to be called Indigo), Active Directory and Kerberos and X.509 identity management.
While the development of SecPAL is continuing there are no plans to turn it into a commercial product, Dillaway told US media. As opposed to existing security technologies for grid computing, e.g. XrML (Extensible Rights Markup Language), XACML (Extensible Access Control Markup Language) and SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language), SecPAL is a comprehensive technology.
Another development in this area comes form Globus Alliance, an academic organisation which has also developed a security structure for grids. The Access Grid Toolkit, which has been developed by the Argonne National Laboratory owned by the US Department of Energy, is open source and employs standards like e.g. SSL (Secure Socket Layer) to attain the security in grid systems. CERN is a third organisation which works at improving the security of distributed computer systems. An entry into related information can be found at the Cern site.
Grid computing connects computers, or clusters of computers, in such a way that their total computing power can be used. Currently grids are mainly used for research purposes and for complex computations like climate and weather simulations. Those types of computational problems can be broken down into many components, which can be computed in parallel. A well-known example is the SETI@Home-Project, which uses thousands of home computers world wide to search for extraterrestrial intelligence. A large number of grid applications are of interest to private enterprise. E.g., ebay is placing its confidence in grid technology to increase the performance and capacity of the on-line auction house.