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Conventional grid-enabled portal designs have been largely influenced by the usual functional requirements such as security requirements, grid resource requirements and job management requirements. However, the pay-as-you-use service provisioning model of utility computing platforms mean that additional requirements must be considered in order to realize effective grid-enabled portals design for such platforms. This work investigates those relevant additional requirements that must be considered for the design of grid-enabled portals for utility computing contexts.

Based on a thorough review of literature, we identified a number of those relevant additional requirements, and developed a grid-enabled portal prototype for the Grid-based Utility Infrastructure for SMME-enabling Technology (GUISET) initiative – a utility computing platform. The GUISET portal was designed to cater for both the traditional grid requirements and some of the relevant additional requirements for utility computing contexts. The result of the evaluation of the GUISET portal prototype using a set of benchmark requirements (standards) revealed that it fulfilled the minimum requirements to be suitable for the utility context.





The use of computer systems for personal and corporate purposes has increased since the early 1990’s and many individuals and corporate organizations have benefited tremendously from its evolution. Notwithstanding, the personal computer (PC) technology model was adjudged a failure for reasons of non-affordability and lack of extensive shareability [1].

Resource-constrained enterprises such as the Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) especially in the rural areas could not easily afford the PC technology amongst other requirements to enable their business processes. Hence many of the SMMEs have to form various business clusters with the aim to engendering shareability of relevant technologies, operational equipment, facilities, etc through a “co-operative society” approach solely for socio-economic benefits [1]. With this approach, every registered member of the co-operative society: business owners, service providers, service consumers, etc can easily harness any facility (jointly owned) and some other membership benefits to enhance their business processes.

In most developing countries, e-Commerce is being adopted in large organizations, but a large number of these resource-constrained enterprises such as the SMMEs are yet to enjoy the maximum benefit e-Commerce offers [2]. Some of the reasons as identified in [3] include inability to afford the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of e-Commerce tools and applications, lack of Information Technology (IT) expertise, amongst others.

Moreso, in order to reduce TCO, SMMEs could pay for just the services and resources used per time, without being burdened with high operational costs and overheads. This mode of resource delivery and utilization is often referred to as On-Demand Computing (ODC) [4, 5]. On-demand computing is a paradigm that facilitates the availability and utilization of computing resources solely on per user request basis [4]. Utility computing is a form of ODC that enables resource provisioning to users through a payment model such as subscription or pay-as-you-use [4]. The term Utility is derived from real world provision of utility services such as electrical power, water and gas, where consumers pay for the services used, based on usage rather than on a flat-rate basis

[5].    This paradigm has gained adoption in enterprise computing, where software resources and 13

services are accessible by users over a network, based on the user’s request. This approach to software delivery can be termed software on demand [4].

The software-on-demand and utility computing paradigm of software delivery would provide SMMEs with several benefits such as the reduction of IT-related operational costs. They no longer need to invest heavily in building, owning or maintaining applications for e-Commerce services such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), On-line Payment Processing (OPP), Report Generation and Analysis (RGA), Order Management Systems (OMS), Inventory Management Systems (IMS), etc, as they can access these services through a network and charged accordingly based on resource usage [5].

This whole scenario however, is one of the motivations for the notion of a Grid-based Utility Infrastructure for SMME-Enabling Technologies, GUISET [1], that was proposed by the Computer Science Department of the University of Zululand, South Africa. GUISET is a research agenda based on adopting the utility approach of service-oriented architecture (SOA) for service delivery. It leverages the success of handheld mobile devices whose technology is more affordable and shareable with mobile mode of utility computing [6].

GUISET therefore aims at technologically enabling the business activities of SMMEs by facilitating an affordable access to relevant technologies on a pay-as-you go basis. The technology is conceptualized as a package of mobile e-Services; therefore web presence is the starting point for the enterprise being enabled. This research agenda envisages a future in which service providers will competitively provide computing services at a varying cost compared to the currently fixed cost to clients based on their quality of service (QoS) requirements [1].

GUISET is not an application but, a SOA-based utility infrastructure that is conceptualized to accommodate services as a suite of service-oriented on-Demand Applications such as applications developed elsewhere by different service providers across various domains such as: e-Commerce, e-Tourism, e-Health, e-Business, e-Government, etc [7]. Moreso, as a grid-based utility infrastructure, GUISET is meant to provide an enabling operating environment through a portal system for every prospective utility service provider and customers willing to form or join any user business cluster or community [7]. The GUISET portal therefore is an interface meant to provide a


street level entrance into a bring-and-share mode of utility computing [7] for every member or prospective member of the business community.

Essentially, a portal is simply a Web-based application that acts as a gateway between users and a range of different high-level services [8]. A typical first generation portal is a three-tiered architecture, consisting of an interface tier, of a Web browser, a middle tier of Web servers, and a third tier of backend services and resources such as databases, high performance computers, storage, specialized devices, etc [9].

Figure 1.1:  A Simple Portal Architecture [9]

This generation of portals suffered a number of setbacks due to their lack of customization, restricted grid services, and static grid services [9]. While there are limitations with the first generation portals, the experiences and lessons learned developing portals have paved the way for the development of more sophisticated and user-friendly portals.

In order to overcome the limitations of the earlier portals, the portlet technology was introduced, promoted and have been adopted for building new generation portals, often referred to as the second generation portals [2, 9]. A so-called second generation portal normally consists of different portlets to process user requests for various services and generate dynamic contents from the responses [10]. From a user's perspective, a portlet is a window or mini user interface in a portal that provides a specific service, for example, a calendar or news feed (see figure 1.2).


Moreso, from an application developer’s perspective, a portlet is a pluggable user interface, software component that are managed by a portlet container, which handles user requests and generates dynamic content in a web portal [9].

Figure 1.2: A Portal Composed of Five Portlets [9]

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