IBM has announced its World Community Grid project is now hosted on the company’s own Bluemix cloud. The grid supports scientific research into societal problems affecting human health, energy, and the environment.
The 14-year old grid was launched by IBM as a “virtual supercomputer” to tap unused computational power present in desktops, laptops and Android computers. A system monitor running on the client computer detects when the CPU is idle and then kicks in to run a piece of a science code that has been submitted by researchers. Due to the very loosely coupled nature of the grid, only codes that parallelize easily and do not require communication between threads are suitable.
Since its inception in 2004, the project has attracted more than 730,000 individuals and 440 institutions to donate over a million years of computing time. The current grid infrastructure comprises about 3.4 million PCs and Android devices.
That’s enough to support 27 research projects in domains as far afield as cancer, HIV/AIDS, Zika and Ebola viruses, genetic mapping, sustainable energy, clean water and ecosystem preservation. Specific applications include those helping to identify potential treatments for childhood cancer, designing more efficient solar cells, and creating better water filtration systems. According to IBM, the grid has provided half a billion dollars of free supercomputer power to these various research endeavors.
Prior to moving to the Bluemix cloud, the grid was hosted at a traditional datacenter, which was used to parcel out the research tasks across the client systems and subsequently collect the results, which were then sent off to the researcher. Now that the Bluemix platform manages all that, researchers have access to a more flexible hosting environment, as well as one that is easier to scale. Each day, the system is able to manage the workflow of about 2.5 million “virtual experiments” submitted to the grid.