07 February 2008

World Community Grid: Join the Distributed Computing network!

Nadezhda Markina, <url>

The Russian scientific community was presented with the latest achievements in the work of the World Community Grid (WCG) and offered cooperation: WCG is looking for a research project from Russia in the field of environmental studies and protection. It happened at a seminar organized by IBM Corporation.

Andy Stanford-Clark, an IBM specialist in computing and Internet technologies, told the seminar participants about what the World Community Grid is and what its capabilities are. He noted that there are about 650 million personal computers in the world, and most of them use only a small part of their power when working. At the same time, these untapped resources can be used for the benefit of all mankind. To this end, in 2004, the World Community Grid system was created – the largest global computing system for solving the most important humanitarian problems. "Scientists have many ideas, but their implementation often depends on the amount of computing power, which is limited. The World Community Grid allows them to be multiplied many times and thus make the impossible possible."

How does the system work? Its members – users of personal computers in different countries, install a special program for themselves, which, while the computer is running, performs a certain amount of calculations unnoticed by the user and sends data to the information collection and processing center. Thus, the participants provide their idle processor resources for distributed computing for free, which become available to the world scientific community. To date, such a network includes more than 875 thousand computers belonging to more than 350 thousand participants. In terms of total power, this computing network surpasses any of the supercomputers that exist today. With its help, 44 billion have already been completed . calculations.

FightAIDS@Home - один из проектов сети распределенных вычислений World Community Grid

What tasks does the World Community Grid solve? To date, the system is working on six projects. The FightAIDS@Home project is aimed at creating a cure for HIV: among millions of chemical compounds, a substance is being searched that can block viral protease, which makes it impossible for the virus to reproduce. The Human Proteome Folding project sets the task of determining the three-dimensional spatial structure of human proteins and studies the change in this structure under the influence of various infections.

The Help Cure Muscular Dystrophy project explores protein-protein interactions that lead to a serious disease – muscular dystrophy. The Discovering Dengue Drugs project is aimed at combating the pathogens of hepatitis C, tropical fever, West Nile fever and yellow fever; specialists are looking for a viral protease blocker.

The AfricanClimate@Home project aims to improve climate models for better forecasting of the regional climate in Africa in order to improve people's lives, increase the efficiency of agriculture and the economy. The latest project Help Conquer Cancer, launched on November 6, 2007, is aimed at studying proteins associated with cancer by X-ray crystallography.

Two projects have already been completed: Genome Comparison – comparing genes with a known function with new genes to establish the role of the latter; and Help Defeat Cancer – improving the early diagnosis of cancer by biomarkers. Next in line are the improvement of climate models, the detection of cancer markers by mass spectrometry, the fight against avian influenza and other pandemics, seismic studies.

The projects are selected by an independent Expert Council, which includes leading scientists from different countries. When the project is accepted, the researchers develop the program code. IBM specialists divide – parallelize the global task of the project into millions of subtasks (units of work). It is they who are solved by the resources of individual participants. Servers send these units of work to volunteer computers around the world. A part of the processor power is involved in the solution of each individual subtask, and the participant can reduce or increase this share depending on the load of the computer with his own work. On average, each unit of work takes 10 hours of computer time on a PC with a frequency of 1.8 GHZ. After that, the system sends the results to the central server. The size of one message with the results is 1 MB, so it almost does not affect the traffic volume. This is followed by a check – in order to avoid errors, the same unit of work is sent to several users, the results obtained from them are compared and incorrect ones are discarded. Individual results are integrated into the overall end result, which becomes public domain.

World Community Grid pays great attention to the security of individual computers of participants and data security. Volunteers can be sure that downloading the program to a personal computer is completely safe, it will not lead to the appearance of any spyware or viruses.

Tatiana Kipchakova, Director of Corporate Relations at IBM, Russia, told about WCG partners. According to her, today the system has 373 partner organizations, including research centers, universities, corporations, large scientific museums. Partners encourage their employees to participate in the project using office computers.

In Russia, the World Community Grid network consists of 1,812 participants and 5,200 computers. There are three partner organizations, including the telecommunications company Welcon-Line. The company's specialists have made a Russian-language version of the website for the AIDS project (www.fightaidsathome.ru ), where they reflect the work on the project in real time.

"Our team provides unused computing resources to more than 1,000 personal computers to fight AIDS, and we encourage all computer users to spend five minutes of their time to join this joint effort," says Andrey Kolkov, director of the Welcon–Line. According to him, the Russian society knows nothing about why the World Community Grid is needed and how it works. It is necessary to explain the goals and objectives of the project as much as possible, as well as convince people that it is absolutely safe for them to participate in it.

IBM aims to expand the World Community Grid network by attracting new participants from different countries to it. With the expansion, it will be possible to solve more research problems. Already, the corporation is looking for a research project from Russia to provide it with the capabilities of grid technologies. The organizers prefer projects related to the study and protection of the environment. This can be modeling of natural phenomena, natural disasters, climate change, assessment of natural resources reserves, protection and restoration of landscapes, etc. The criteria for selecting projects are scientific significance, the global nature of the problem and the ability to divide the task into many subtasks.

Researchers interested in using WCG resources to carry out their projects can get advice at: wcg@ru.ibm.com . Applications for participation in the project are made on the World Community Grid website, and anyone who wants to become a WCG volunteer can download free software and register at: www.worldcommunitygrid.org . The World Community Grid infrastructure can include computers running Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems. The participant can choose the project for which he would like to provide his computer resources.

Portal "Eternal youth" www.vechnayamolodost.ru07.02.2008

Found a typo? Select it and press ctrl + enter Print version