You might soon be selling your spare computer power over the internet, or perhaps buying in extra resources to solve a tricky problem. In either case, network administration used to be a stumbling block â€“ until European researchers developed a successful free-market approach to grid computing. As you read this, millions of computers all over the world are sleeping peacefully after a busy day at work. Computing power is going to waste simply because these machines do not have enough work to occupy them round the clock. The idea of using the internet to help make better use of computing resources is not new, but according to Professor Torsten Eymann of the University of Bayreuth, Germany, we need a better way to match resources with the people who want to use them.
Current approaches to â€œgrid computingâ€ tend to be organised like an online auction, Eymann says, with everything routed through a central server. This works well for small or slow-moving markets, but soon bogs down when many thousands of traders need to negotiate deals on a timescale of minutes or seconds.
Eymann says that a free-market approach, without central oversight, may be the best way to trade computing resources on a large scale. He is the coordinator of the EU-funded CATNETS project, which has developed a promising technical foundation for a free market in grid computing.
Check out this great article about the possibilities of grid technologies for the home user – the concept of selling your cpu cycles could be something we see one day. Interestingly with free broadband, I wonder if it would not be worth the broadbrand providers offering a free media center to home users and selling the cpu processing? A DL360 or a mac mini type pc in your living room, controlled by your broadband provider but giving you photos/movies etc? What customers would buy this cpu time? That small business needing some temporary capacity? Or a research organization – we’ve seen it with the cure cancer screensaver, the issue is one of profitability, I’ll sell my CPU time no problems, but not if it interferes or is perceived to disrupt my activities, and as the cost of power goes up, I need to think – how much is my CPU time worth? 8p per cpu per hour?