Yesterday I wrote about Folding@Home and how spare computer cycles can potentially make a big difference in research. I’ve be running the client on my home PC for a little while and have already come up with some other ideas.
If computer clusters (distributed computing) can figure out the dynamics of folding proteins, what else can they do? And how would someone go about setting up such a scheme?
The basic problem seems to be that no one gives computing cycles much value. If some form of money were involved, you can be sure that the motivation would be much higher.
This is the basic idea. If you could set up a brokering system that would allow for trades between users and systems, you could potentially sell and buy computer time from just about anyone. Please let me know if such a system already exists (sometimes it takes me a while to find out about these things). If you could sell your spare cycles to someone and that someone could use the cycles along with other people’s cycles, both sides would win. The person with the task would benefit from the raw power of the systems combined whereas the users would get money or credit to do what they wanted at some other time.
The overall concept introduces the basis of an computing economy on the Internet. To give you a primitive example, it would be possible for a movie house to produce a digital animation movie using the bought computer time from the individual users. Instead of spending a fortune on in-house systems and not getting the performance they want, they could pay for a collective net of computers to do the work for them. In this way, it is not much different from the concept of Folding@Home but instead has the goal of producing a high quality film with the lowest cost. It’s a bit idealistic given that there would be a need to safeguard both sides from potential abuse. However, the model does make sense and would justify investment.
All this flows with the concept that ideas are going to become more powerful than the things they create. This is largely due to the dynamic aspect of ideas that can be applied to many different areas at once.
With the idea of using the credit model, you could build up your credit with a particular group of systems so that when you do want to do something complicated, you can do it in a burst instead of waiting for hours. In fact, this model makes even more sense that I originally thought. If the computer is idle, it can be doing work. This work is stored as credit on the net and ready for the next time the user comes back. The user can use the concentrated work during the relatively short period of time that it is needed. It’s kind of like charging batteries. It takes a while to charge but once you have a good charge you can do lots of things. In this model it is even more focused. It is more like charging for a flash. You build up over a time and then you do something amazing for a short jolt.
NOAA Lightning Page
I’m being to like this idea even more. Any one care to brainstorm on this one in comments? I would love to hear from you.