Peer to Peer Supercomputing

by Carson Reynolds

Imagine opening a shell and making use of the power of 40,000 processors. In recent years many distributed computing projects have solved problems by making use of resources provided by volunteers. The distributed.net project successfully cracked 64-bit RC5 encryption, Folding@Home was able to successfully simulate the folding rate of molecules at different temperatures. However, this sort of computing is altruistic, relying on a community to donate resources. A different approach has been taken with community supported wireless Internet access. Here the community donates resources and is able to make use of the network access of the aggregate whole. Recent research on interactive distributed computing like Matlab*P shows the intriguing possibility of allowing a community interactive supercomputer. By analogy, peers of interactive clients running freely available numerical computation environments similar to Octave can form an ad-hoc network and allow each of the clients to make use of the very large parallel computational resources formed by the whole idle network. While research versions of such systems exist, open networks formed by volunteers do not yet. Perhaps some motivated and crafty researcher will be the first to develop just such a project and community. With all the things I want to work on, I’m afraid it will probably not be me.

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