December 8, 2000


San Diego, CALIF. — This is continuing a discussion about “Supercomputing Takes Yet Another Turn” (18939, 11.23.00). In a letter to the editor (18977, 12.01.00), Nigel Healy, takes exception to the title and suggests “New Uses for the Internet” instead. He also lists some challenges in the Internet Computing field, suggesting that IC may not be viable for true Supercomputing.

Although it does differ in significant ways from conventional Supercomputing, and there are some challenges, Internet Computing clearly does support many types of large-scale computing, including many high-performance computational science applications typically done on Supercomputers.

As [email protected] ( setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu ) has shown, very large-scale computation can be accomplished in this way. Recently, [email protected] statistics stated that over a 24-hour period ending 12/1/00, their collection of computers had achieved over 28 TeraFLOPs/sec. Since they duplicate computations (as a security measure), the real throughput is half of that, which is still an extremely impressive 14 TeraFLOPs/sec. This is not just theoretical maximum speed, but real, sustained computation.

The top ranked computer on the Top500 list ( www.top500.org ) is the ASCI White SP Power3 ( www.llnl.gov/asci ), which is rated at 4.938 TeraFLOPs/sec. The Linpack benchmark used for this list measures near-peak performance and typical applications will run much slower (see http://www.top500.org/lists/linpack.html ). But even using the 4.938 figure, that means that [email protected] is delivering more than twice the FLOPs/sec rate of the world’s faster supercomputer (nearly three times). In my opinion, such a system should be considered a supercomputer. That it does so at a fraction of the cost makes it that much more attractive. For those applications that can run in the IC mode, the potential is very great indeed.

But I agree that the title “Supercomputing Takes Yet Another Turn” is somewhat misleading. Internet Computing is an excellent way to do computational science and other types of HPC, but is likely to coexist with conventional supercomputing for a long time, probably indefinitely. Many applications require very frequent, high-speed, low-latency communication between cooperating processors and will require conventional supercomputers for optimal performance. It is not so much that supercomputing is giving way to IC, but that IC is a new and growing type of HPC that supplements existing systems. It is another way to provide high-performance, high-quality, cost-effective computational capability.

The supplemental nature of IC is exemplified by the recent announcement of a major collaboration between Entropia and the PACI centers, NPACI and NCSA. These partners will develop and deploy a number of large-scale IC applications to supplement the conventional supercomputing done at the PACI centers (see “Entropia Creates Largest Computing Resource Ever Available to Academic Scientists,” http://www.entropia.com/press/release_11092000.asp ).

The likely benefit of IC to HPC and to society is tremendous. Already there are many projects in production today, including [email protected], FightAIDSatHome ( http://www.fightaidsathome.org , a collaboration between Entropia and the Olson laboratory at the Scripps Research Institute), and Stanford’s [email protected] ( http://www.stanford.edu/group/pandegroup/Cosm/ ).

I have worked in the Supercomputing field for over 20 years now and have been fascinated by the potential of IC applications since learning of [email protected] a year and a half ago. Last summer, I had the opportunity to participate in one such venture and joined Entropia. I believe that Entropia is well on its way to success, with the developing technology, talent, and vision to address the technical challenges and achieve its goals. We are building on three years of real-world experience (see GIMPS, the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search, http://www.mersenne.org/prime.htm ).

I’ll comment briefly on the expressed concerns about Loadbalancing, Security, Robustness, and Economics.

Economics is rather interesting. The Entropia client makes use of computer cycles that would otherwise go to waste. This is commonly known as “cycle stealing” but “recycling” would be a better term since nothing is stolen. The Entropia client includes a screen-saver, but it does not require the screen saver to rescue cycles from the idle loop, in 1/100th of a second. It gets out of the way immediately when other uses of the machine are needed. Thus, the economics are that the computing power is essentially free; wasted computing and electrical power can be put to good use. And since it is generally a good idea to avoid powercycling a computer, work PCs and workstations often sit totally idle overnight and on the weekends. Home PCs also sit idle periodically.

Loadbalancing can be a concern for some applications but not all. A unit of work is distributed to a client, and it is returned when complete. There is a steady, massive stream of work units to be done. Applications that do have a need for loadbalancing can be accommodated by scheduling jobs on the appropriate subset of client hosts. This is an area of active development at Entropia, part of our efforts to ease the integration of a wide variety of applications into our IC system.

A significant portion of the Entropia infrastructure and development efforts address security through the use of encryption, authentication, and sandbox technologies. Of course, there is no such thing as perfect computer security, but an effective trade-off can be made. In many applications, data security is not a significant concern, or the individual pieces are unintelligible without the whole being known. Key results can be verified independently. In [email protected], for example, when the IC system locates potentially interesting portions in the radio telescope data stream, they are reexamined independently.

Robustness of the software is a challenge, due to wide variation in PC configurations and devices. But the client software doesn’t need to deal with every type of device itself and the whole network of clients has to be managed in a manner that can deal with client job failure or network disconnection from a variety of causes. Job retry and recovery is a major component of our infrastructure.

Another challenge, and another potential strength for the IC field, is that, so far, few people thought about how their computational problem might be solved in this unorthodox manner. Instead of trying to make very efficient use of expensive machines, one can make less efficient use of large numbers of inexpensive machines. Some Monte Carlo approaches that are too inefficient on supercomputers may now be viable. Results that are produced too slowly on a single PC (or even a supercomputer) have a completely different impact when they become part of a huge ensemble. ClimatePredition.com, for example, is planning to do millions of year-long runs on PCs. “…we aren’t proposing to parallelize a single model over many PCs, which would indeed be impractical, but to have everyone run their own independent climate model. This is feasible, because for a 50-year climate simulation (unlike a 3-day weather forecast), it doesn’t matter if the results aren’t in for a couple of years.” As more people think about large-scale problems in such innovative ways, additional and unexpected IC applications will be developed.

In short, the potential for Internet Computing is huge. There are technical challenges, but they are being addressed. Applications that can fit into the IC mode of computational science can tap into a resource that is orders of magnitude more capable than might otherwise be available.

In addition to all the other benefits, IC, by its nature, involves large numbers of the public directly in scientific research. The science is done not only by peer-review, but also by citizen choice, and an informed citizenry is a necessity. Such involvement and education of the public is sorely needed, particularly in the United States where the average citizen understands little about science and the workings of the natural world.

I hope you all will wish us luck (and download and run our client software today at www.entropia.com!) The need for large-scale computational power is essentially unlimited and IC can make significant contributions to HPC.

— Wayne Schroeder

Entropia, Inc.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of its author and not necessarily those of the publisher or staff of HPCwire.


Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

What’s New in Computing vs. COVID-19: Fugaku, Congress, De Novo Design & More

July 2, 2020

Supercomputing, big data and artificial intelligence are crucial tools in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Around the world, researchers, corporations and governments are urgently devoting their computing reso Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time last year, IBM announced open sourcing its Power instructio Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Career Notes: July 2020 Edition

July 1, 2020

In this monthly feature, we'll keep you up-to-date on the latest career developments for individuals in the high-performance computing community. Whether it's a promotion, new company hire, or even an accolade, we've got Read more…

By Mariana Iriarte

Supercomputers Enable Radical, Promising New COVID-19 Drug Development Approach

July 1, 2020

Around the world, innumerable supercomputers are sifting through billions of molecules in a desperate search for a viable therapeutic to treat COVID-19. Those molecules are pulled from enormous databases of known compoun Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPC-Powered Simulations Reveal a Looming Climatic Threat to Vital Monsoon Seasons

June 30, 2020

As June draws to a close, eyes are turning to the latter half of the year – and with it, the monsoon and hurricane seasons that can prove vital or devastating for many of the world’s coastal communities. Now, climate Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

AWS Solution Channel

Maxar Builds HPC on AWS to Deliver Forecasts 58% Faster Than Weather Supercomputer

When weather threatens drilling rigs, refineries, and other energy facilities, oil and gas companies want to move fast to protect personnel and equipment. And for firms that trade commodity shares in oil, precious metals, crops, and livestock, the weather can significantly impact their buy-sell decisions. Read more…

Intel® HPC + AI Pavilion

Supercomputing the Pandemic: Scientific Community Tackles COVID-19 from Multiple Perspectives

Since their inception, supercomputers have taken on the biggest, most complex, and most data-intensive computing challenges—from confirming Einstein’s theories about gravitational waves to predicting the impacts of climate change. Read more…

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This year is no different though the conversion of ISC to a digital Read more…

By John Russell

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time Read more…

By John Russell

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This yea Read more…

By John Russell

Racism and HPC: a Special Podcast

June 29, 2020

Promoting greater diversity in HPC is a much-discussed goal and ostensibly a long-sought goal in HPC. Yet it seems clear HPC is far from achieving this goal. Re Read more…

Top500 Trends: Movement on Top, but Record Low Turnover

June 25, 2020

The 55th installment of the Top500 list saw strong activity in the leadership segment with four new systems in the top ten and a crowning achievement from the f Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ISC 2020 Keynote: Hope for the Future, Praise for Fugaku and HPC’s Pandemic Response

June 24, 2020

In stark contrast to past years Thomas Sterling’s ISC20 keynote today struck a more somber note with the COVID-19 pandemic as the central character in Sterling’s annual review of worldwide trends in HPC. Better known for his engaging manner and occasional willingness to poke prickly egos, Sterling instead strode through the numbing statistics associated... Read more…

By John Russell

ISC 2020’s Student Cluster Competition Winners Announced

June 24, 2020

Normally, the Student Cluster Competition involves teams of students building real computing clusters on the show floors of major supercomputer conferences and Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Hoefler’s Whirlwind ISC20 Virtual Tour of ML Trends in 9 Slides

June 23, 2020

The ISC20 experience this year via livestreaming and pre-recordings is interesting and perhaps a bit odd. That said presenters’ efforts to condense their comments makes for economic use of your time. Torsten Hoefler’s whirlwind 12-minute tour of ML is a great example. Hoefler, leader of the planned ISC20 Machine Learning... Read more…

By John Russell

At ISC, the Fight Against COVID-19 Took the Stage – and Yes, Fugaku Was There

June 23, 2020

With over nine million infected and nearly half a million dead, the COVID-19 pandemic has seized the world’s attention for several months. It has also dominat Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Modeling Tests How COVID-19 Spreads in Grocery Stores

April 8, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, many people are treating simple activities like getting gas or groceries with caution as they try to heed social distancing mandates and protect their own health. Still, significant uncertainty surrounds the relative risk of different activities, and conflicting information is prevalent. A team of Finnish researchers set out to address some of these uncertainties by... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Turns Its Massive Crowdsourced Computer Network Against COVID-19

March 16, 2020

For gamers, fighting against a global crisis is usually pure fantasy – but now, it’s looking more like a reality. As supercomputers around the world spin up Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Rallies a Legion of Computers Against the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

Last week, we highlighted [email protected], a massive, crowdsourced computer network that has turned its resources against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe – but [email protected] isn’t the only game in town. The internet is buzzing with crowdsourced computing... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Global Supercomputing Is Mobilizing Against COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Tech has been taking some heavy losses from the coronavirus pandemic. Global supply chains have been disrupted, virtually every major tech conference taking place over the next few months has been canceled... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Simulations Reveal the Fate of the Neanderthals

May 25, 2020

For hundreds of thousands of years, neanderthals roamed the planet, eventually (almost 50,000 years ago) giving way to homo sapiens, which quickly became the do Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DoE Expands on Role of COVID-19 Supercomputing Consortium

March 25, 2020

After announcing the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium on Sunday, the Department of Energy yesterday provided more details on its sco Read more…

By John Russell

Steve Scott Lays Out HPE-Cray Blended Product Roadmap

March 11, 2020

Last week, the day before the El Capitan processor disclosures were made at HPE's new headquarters in San Jose, Steve Scott (CTO for HPC & AI at HPE, and former Cray CTO) was on-hand at the Rice Oil & Gas HPC conference in Houston. He was there to discuss the HPE-Cray transition and blended roadmap, as well as his favorite topic, Cray's eighth-gen networking technology, Slingshot. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Honeywell’s Big Bet on Trapped Ion Quantum Computing

April 7, 2020

Honeywell doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of quantum computing pioneers, but a decade ago the high-tech conglomerate better known for its control systems waded deliberately into the then calmer quantum computing (QC) waters. Fast forward to March when Honeywell announced plans to introduce an ion trap-based quantum computer whose ‘performance’ would... Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers


Neocortex Will Be First-of-Its-Kind 800,000-Core AI Supercomputer

June 9, 2020

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC - a joint research organization of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh) has won a $5 million award Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

‘Billion Molecules Against COVID-19’ Challenge to Launch with Massive Supercomputing Support

April 22, 2020

Around the world, supercomputing centers have spun up and opened their doors for COVID-19 research in what may be the most unified supercomputing effort in hist Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Australian Researchers Break All-Time Internet Speed Record

May 26, 2020

If you’ve been stuck at home for the last few months, you’ve probably become more attuned to the quality (or lack thereof) of your internet connection. Even Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU: Up to 2.5X the HPC, 20X the AI

May 14, 2020

Nvidia's first Ampere-based graphics card, the A100 GPU, packs a whopping 54 billion transistors on 826mm2 of silicon, making it the world's largest seven-nanom Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

15 Slides on Programming Aurora and Exascale Systems

May 7, 2020

Sometime in 2021, Aurora, the first planned U.S. exascale system, is scheduled to be fired up at Argonne National Laboratory. Cray (now HPE) and Intel are the k Read more…

By John Russell

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

TACC Supercomputers Run Simulations Illuminating COVID-19, DNA Replication

March 19, 2020

As supercomputers around the world spin up to combat the coronavirus, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) is announcing results that may help to illumina Read more…

By Staff report

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This