For five years, Nelson was Senator Gore's science advisor, and four years as IT policy wonk at the White House.
He said: "In my ten years of government I learnt something very important. I talked to CEOs and prime ministers. I realized one thing you need. Always have a good bumper sticker".
He said that the Internet revolution is less than eight per cent complete. "This is a great bumper sticker. The total number of users, applications and information is immense. With broadband, and particularly fibre, we're heading to the third phase of applications on the Internet".
The third phase of the Internet is about collaboration, he said. "The very first Internet message was LO, because the system crashed when they tried to log on. For twenty years, email and FTP was the main use of the Internet. Then the Web was created and turned it into a broadcasting medium. A few years ago Napster was invented and that showed us the power of distributed applications. Millions of people could access a network with 300,000 PCs and get what they want".
Napster was a specialised niche application, but he said that what's really powerful is distributed computing and the Grid enables us to do that. "Millions of people will access thousands of machines of different types to get what they want. This global Grid will have an OS called Globus, and will function as a single machine".
The Grid allows more reliable service more cheaply, he claimed. "By managing the Grid as a single system we'll cut maintenance costs, improve productivity and tap into the supercomputing power of the grid. In a way it will be like the electric grid. You don't care which plant is providing the power. It will be there when you need it".
Nelson said machines on the Grid will be self healing, and pervasive.
What's driving the Grid are open standards like Linux, he said. People had used standards in the past to block each other, but that's changed now, Nelson said.
There will be many different flavours of the Grid. There's a lot of confusion about what it is, and what it isn't.
Distributed computing is one flavour while the TeraGrid is a server based system. The peer to peer and Grid Computing will become the Holy Grid. The Holy Grid will need better networks.
The Grid will need radical new architecture, such as 100+ gigabit/second line speeds, larget packets, optical networks and possibly replacing the Internet Protocol.
He said that IBM is experimenting with some of these techniques, and is working closely with the Internet2 Abilene network and with the Global Grid Forum at www.gridforum.org.
The Grid needs a network aware stack to ensure end to end performance and security. The Grid will bring real dollars in for telcos, and for biotech and other industries.
Auto, aerospace, financial services, and hospitals will be able to leverage the Grid's power he said. There's more information at econstrat.org.
He said this new type of computing will be every bit as disruptive as other technologies such as Linux.
"In the US we have completely botched the telecomms and as a result we are falling behind, compared to Europe," he said.