Since 1986 - Covering the Fastest Computers in the World and the People Who Run Them

Language Flags
October 16, 2012

Cycle Scavenging Startup Gets Its Grid On

Tiffany Trader

Distributed computing stories in the tradition of volunteer grids (like SETI@home and World Community Grid) aren’t terribly common, so I usually take notice of them. This week, an item in Digital Trends alerted me to the existence of a new cycle scavenging startup, CPUsage.

The company, based in Portland, Oregon, operates kind of like the volunteer grids, except it pays users for their “extra” compute power, then collects and reallocates the cycles. The loosely-coupled system is a good match for inherently-parallel workloads and the company is seeing demand for visualization-related jobs like video encoding.

“The idea is that there are so many computers around the world that sit idle most of the day,” states co-founder Jeff Martens in the Digital Trends piece. “In the U.S. alone, there are 250 million PCs – and most of us let those computers sit idle most of the time. And even when we do use them, the average person is using about five percent or less of the CPU’s capabilities.”

“We harness that unused processing power and we repurpose it and sell it to companies with high through-put and high performance needs.”

Martens and co-founder Matt Wallington, a 10-year veteran of Intel, explain that the concept of harnessing unused cycles over the Internet came out of NASA originally and was popularized by the SETI@home program – a Space Sciences Laboratory project that uses public computers to look for signs of intelligent life outside Earth. (SETI stands for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.) The impetus for CPUsage came when Martens, who was then working for an electronic design automation firm at the time, was listening to his friend, a Sun Microsystems employee, bemoan the amount of time required to run simulations.

Martens figured that if employees of a major HPC company were in this predicament, there had to be a better way. His thoughts soon turned to virtually-unlimited pools of idle compute cycles, and the idea for the company was born.

While the startup has already raised $1 million in seed funding thanks to Bay Area investors, the founders are managing the company’s growth carefully. Nevertheless, the execs report that supply-side interest is already sky-high with a waiting list in the thousands. Louisiana State University is one high-profile partner and offers a good illustration of untapped computing power. Its computer labs are open and powered-on 20 hours a day, but only used for an average of three. CPusage will allow the university to recoup some of that wasted power and potential.

As with similar programs, the duo say the software is unobtrusive and all users have to do is download it, take care of a few settings, the rest happens automatically behind the scenes. The current release is limited to Windows clients, but Linux and OS X versions are being looked at.

Oct. 17, 2012 — Editor’s note: This article has been updated since it was first published to correct facts and add information.

SC14 Virtual Booth Tours

AMD SC14 video AMD Virtual Booth Tour @ SC14
Click to Play Video
Cray SC14 video Cray Virtual Booth Tour @ SC14
Click to Play Video
Datasite SC14 video DataSite and RedLine @ SC14
Click to Play Video
HP SC14 video HP Virtual Booth Tour @ SC14
Click to Play Video
IBM DCS3860 and Elastic Storage @ SC14 video IBM DCS3860 and Elastic Storage @ SC14
Click to Play Video
IBM Flash Storage
@ SC14 video IBM Flash Storage @ SC14  
Click to Play Video
IBM Platform @ SC14 video IBM Platform @ SC14
Click to Play Video
IBM Power Big Data SC14 video IBM Power Big Data @ SC14
Click to Play Video
Intel SC14 video Intel Virtual Booth Tour @ SC14
Click to Play Video
Lenovo SC14 video Lenovo Virtual Booth Tour @ SC14
Click to Play Video
Mellanox SC14 video Mellanox Virtual Booth Tour @ SC14
Click to Play Video
Panasas SC14 video Panasas Virtual Booth Tour @ SC14
Click to Play Video
Quanta SC14 video Quanta Virtual Booth Tour @ SC14
Click to Play Video
Seagate SC14 video Seagate Virtual Booth Tour @ SC14
Click to Play Video
Supermicro SC14 video Supermicro Virtual Booth Tour @ SC14
Click to Play Video