Researchers from Queensland University of Technology are making it easier to combine the power of idle computers to create cheap but powerful virtual supercomputers.
They call the technique “cycle stealing,” which taps into the number crunching capacity of a computer when it’s not in use. Worldwide, people are already contributing their computers to projects to search for extraterrestrial intelligence, fight AIDS or help cure cancer.
But although they demonstrate the potential of cycle stealing, these are one-off projects designed to solve particular problems.
Now researchers at QUT’s Center for IT Innovation are devising generic cycle stealing software that should enable anyone to build a virtual supercomputer for projects that need more power than your average PC.
“The premise is that anyone who needs more computing horsepower than their desktop computer provides, should be able to get it via cycle stealing,” explained Ph.D. researcher Jiro Sumitomo.
“Idle desktops can be combined to form ad hoc cycle stealing networks that provide high performance without the high cost associated with ‘real’ supercomputers.”
Supported by a grant from Microsoft, the researchers have developed a framework called G2, which supports the creation of secure cycle stealing networks on the Internet. It allows people to contribute computing power using nothing more than a Web browser.
The researchers designed G2 to meet user expectations of performance, reliability, ease of use and safety, including the ability to support a wide range of applications.
“By making cycle stealing networks cheap and easy to deploy, and by supporting many types of parallel applications, we hope to make high performance computing accessible to everyone.”
An online demo of G2 is available on the Web at g2.fit.qut.edu.au. The researchers hope that a public release will be available in the next six months.