IBM the Humanitarian
Opinion: By using its expertise in backing the World Community Grid project, IBM also gets the chance to demonstrate the benefits of grid computing.Making use of unused CPU cycles on your client computers isnt a new idea. Going back into the 1980s, there was network database software that let you install a small piece of agent software on your client computers that, after normal business hours, would allow the database server to distribute its indexing load to any computer that was running its agent. In the early 1990s, graphics software was developed that, using the same agent model, was able to distribute the image rendering process to many different types of client operating systems, speeding up what is still a very CPU-intensive process, rendering graphic images. But the end of the 20th century saw not only a massive increase in the number of network computers, but also freely distributable client software that worked together with a centralized server to complete a specific task. These clients, such as the RSA encryption cracking contest tool from Distributed.net and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence from SETI@Home, provided clients for just about every common client operating system, let the user determine how much CPU resource they would use and when the software would run, and gave users a sense of camaraderie in creating teams that competed to devote the greatest number of excess computing cycles to the selected project.
Now IBM has taken this concept a step further by stepping up as the technical muscle behind the World Community Grid project, joining United Devices (the folks behind SETI@Home) and a host of academic and scientific organizations to create an organization that uses these spare CPU cycles to work on projects designed to benefit humanity.