Distributed Processing in action

This semester I took to follow the Distributed Processing module as one of my level four subject. It gave the opportunity to explore into most of the high-end Supercomputers that are in used around the world for carrying out massive amounts of processing in the range of Petaflops. According to a recent article IBM corporation has started to built 20 Petaflops Computer for the US Government. At the moment Roadrunner, Jaguar and Pleiades tops the list of top500.org as at 11/2008.

During the lecture series we had hands on experiences with PVM under a local network infrastructure with MS Windows and GNU/Linux environments. We experiments on how to send and receive messages across each other in a parallel and distributed fashion. Users of GNU/Linux(Ubuntu) can very easily install it to your machine as follows:

sudo apt-get install pvm

Our lecturer introduced to us about the BOINC project that heavily use the principles of Distributed Processing for making use of individual’s idle computer processing power, distributed across the world to help fulfills the massive requirement of computing power for complex scientific research. The BOINC project was initiated at Berkeley University California, led by Dr David Anderson who started one of the original volunteer computing projects called SETI@home. The BOINC software just runs in the background and only get active once the computer gets idle for sometime, it provides the user the total control to define how its computing power should be distributed and the only requirement is to have the machine connected to Internet while on idle. Currently I’m volunteering my computer’s processing power for:

  • SETI@home – ‘a scientific experiment that uses Internet-connected computers in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence(SETI)’ and
  • Quake-Catcher Network – ‘It is a collaborative initiative for developing the world’s largest, low-cost strong-motion seismic network by utilizing sensors in and attached to internet-connected computers to provide better understanding of earthquakes, give early warning to schools, emergency response systems, and others’