Distributed computing has become more and more popular, but what exactly is it, and why should you care? KaoMAN explains.
A supercomputer is defined as “a mainframe computer that is among the largest, fastest, or most powerful of those available at a given time.” Based on Top500.org’s TOP500 List for November 2003, the current fastest and most powerful supercomputer is the Earth-Simulator at the Earth Simulator Center in Japan. Built in 2002 by NEC, this computer features 5120 processors. To put this in perspective, most desktops are single processor computers. Supercomputers are expensive and few. But with so many research initiatives going on today that rely on heavy computer calculations, how can budget strapped organizations acquire funding for such extraordinary computers? This is where distributed computing enters.
What is distributed computing? Well, if we break down the term, to distribute means to pass out or spread, and to compute means to calculate. Putting the two together, distributed computing is the latest phenomenon intertwining research of math and science with the general public through the Internet.Rather than building and maintaining a supercomputer merely to sit all day and do math calculations, organizations have turned to distributed computing, tying together computers from around the world, and using their spare cycles to calculate whatever the project needs calculated. As far as users go, to be a part of distributed computing, a computer user just has to download and install the software for a particular project and let the program run in the background. It is completely voluntary, and some organizations offer rewards for being part of the program.
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