Would you invest in SUPERCOMPUTING for almost FREE? **PLEASE READ**


Jul 20, 2009


I'm not sure where to post this, but I figured somwhere on Tom's would be a good place to ask. Please move this thread if it belongs somewhere else.

I have been knocking this idea around and wanted to get a few opinions on it from the enthusiast community.

In a Nutshell
To be brief. The idea is to develop a system that runs on computers and allows you to share your free computer resources (processing power: CPU AND GPU) with other people running the same Apps. i.e. its like a general-purpose folding@home, however with returns. The more power you share, the more 'currency' you earn and it allows you to run your own apps on that system. So basically anyone has access to Supercomputing power. In a sense.

So, say, if you're a person who uses Engineering CAD, or perhaps you're a researcher working on some cutting edge neural network algorithms, then you'd have access to a supercomputer to do your work, and all you'd have to invest is a bit of free time on your system when you're NOT using it.

Even if you're NOT planning on using that supercomputing power you earn, perhaps you'd invest it out of the 'goodness of your heart' :)

The Idea Explained

The idea centres around an innovative project (and to my knowledge is untried in this manner) to implement an Operating System or Operating Environment (Remember windows 3 in the early days of DOS?)and various programming languages (C/C++ and others) that is capable of running on PCs as well as in a virtual machine using virtualisation technology. The environment that is set up by this technology would allow the efficient execution of multi-threaded, massively parallel applications. The environment would be similar to UNIX or Windows (this is all speculation at this moment.

The software will use your spare system resources (you can specify what percentage) to run additional processes from all over the world. You can think of it as a general-purpose folding at home. The more processes that have run on your system, the more 'currency' you will earn. This currency will allow you to run YOUR OWN multi-threaded applications. Naturally the amount of currency and the rate at which you own it depends on your own investment of processing power/resources. You can think of this along the lines of the bittorrent model, where by uploading more you can download faster. But the currency in this case is persistent.

Anyway, the idea is to get people to dedicate at least a portion of their computers resources (when it's idle of course), so that without really losing anything more than electricity you will be helping researchers, engineers, developers, around the world run their applications faster.

Typically, the system will allow you to use whatever 'free' resources the GRID as a whole has. However, if your competing for processing power with others, then people with higher currency will get preferential treatment for their processes/threads. The various schemes, scheduling algorithms, architectural details, and actual details of how the system will work are far from established. for now, this is just an idea, and I am wondering what the feasibility is.

Naturally this system is not simple and would require cutting edge researchers in engineering, mathematics and computer science to pull off.

But curious to see what some of your thoughts are.

I for one, would love the prospect of being able to share some GPU/CPU time (when i'm not using the system, or when i'm just using a few % of the resources to mess around with word or watch a movie), in return for a supercomputer when i need it.

It has a bit of a niche target as far as 'consumers' go. but folding@home has a few consumers at best.

In this case, you'd be directly helping the evolution of human knowledge. Perhaps that poor engineer stuck in his 6x6 room who is hard at work trying to develop that next-generation AI algorithm. or the biochemist who spends some of his free time in coming up with some better drug. Or that engineer designing a highly efficient new processor design. the list goes on.

What I want from you guys
Just a simple Yes/No answer, with an optional reason for that answer.

Would you share ANY of your processing resources for such a project?

OPTIONAL: If the answer is yes, what percentage of the time you are NOT using ur system will you lend, for this?

Please also state if you do any sort of work with software that MAY potentially benefit from a massively parallel implementation of your software.

Thank you



Jul 20, 2009
no not really. There are plenty of grid computing applications that work along similar lines.... what i'm interested in is what users would think of it. whether they'd be willing to pitch in.

this would be for use as a an enormous grid supercomputer, and applications for this purpose would normally be designed and built, or ported for research purposes and therefore would be very specific. its not a general 'play Crysis' or 'run Photoshop' type of model.

but say if i wanted to do some cutting edge work with neural networks that just cant be done without access to a supercomputer (i.e. not enough parallelism), then I would use this hypothetical system to do that work.

anyway, technically, it's feasible. its not easy ofc. :) but it's certainly feasible.. I'm just wondering what the human variable in the equation would be like.

I think you need to ask yourself how many people want to do cutting edge work with , for example, neural networks ... and how many of those read this forum

Weta Workshops essentially did exactly this with [ I think ] 1000 Macs and used the grid they made for the CGI work on the LOTR movies , Xmen , King Kong etc .
Of course they had the budget to buy 1000 Macs and locate them all in the same location which helped immensely
It works better if you have a massive number of serial tasks to be processed, otherwise you are forced to constantly use the internet which prevents the user from doing anything else.

Oh and im pretty sure the NSA will come find you if you try this because just what they need, thousands of computers that anyone can run software on and potentially use to brute force through a password. That is the kind of thing that they have nightmares about.