Using grid for good

World Community Grid, an organization dedicated to deploying grid computing for humanitarian efforts, recently enlisted its 100,000th computer in less than six months.

Grid computing's place in the enterprise market is still up for debate. But its value as a powerful tool for scientific research is unquestioned, and World Community Grid (WCG), a humanitarian research organization, has spent the past six months deploying this emerging technology for a simple purpose -- using grid for good.

On Friday, WCG, an IBM-sponsored initiative, announced that it had reached a pair of milestones. The organization has enlisted its 100,000th computer along with its first university partner, Marist College, in what it calls its continued effort to find answers to the world's most daunting scientific problems.

The WCG's mission -- to create the world's largest public computing grid to tackle projects that benefit humanity -- might sound a bit idealistic, but in less than five months, more than 64,000 individuals have signed up their personal and business computers, donating more than 8,250 years of runtime.

According to Robin Wilner, IBM's director of corporate community relations, Big Blue's interest in WCG is both practical and altruistic.

"For IBM, its very important that, in addition to our business interests, we think its necessary to create real value in the community where IBM customers live and work … World Community Grid is one of the best ways to show how cutting-edge technology [can work] in the community to tackle enormous scientific challenges … it's good for us when people see the power of this technology," Wilner said.

IBM has donated close to $5 million in technology and services to the organization thus far. Big Blue gave WCG eServer p630 and x345 systems to run, along its Shark Enterprise Storage Server, which runs IBM DB2 database software, as well as AIX and Linux operating systems.

WCG has the capacity to run five to six projects a year for public and not-for-profit organizations, and is available to the global research community for projects in the following disciplines:

  • Medical research -- genomics, proteomics, epidemiology and biological system research
  • Environmental research -- ecology, climatology, pollution and preservation
  • Basic research -- human health and welfare related studies

    WCG's first undertaking, The Human Proteome Folding Project, is working to identify the proteins that make up the human proteome so that scientists can better identify causes and potential cures for diseases like malaria and tuberculosis. In this project, the WCG has completed more than 6 million work units in five months, which it said might have taken a large supercomputer five years to accomplish.

    For more information:

    Rethinking grid computing as a mainstream solution

    Data centers adopt on-demand on own terms

    "It's about finding projects that have some scientific and humanitarian impact, projects that can really benefit from large amounts of computing power," Ian Foster said, a computer science professor at the University of Chicago and the head of the Distributed Systems Lab for Argonne National Labs. Foster is also a member of the WCG advisory board. "Clearly, we haven't been going very long, but we've seen that [WCG] has been able to produce real value."

    Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Luke Meredith, News Writer

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