April 03, 2004

Flashmob Supercomputing at USF Now

The project came up in a class around 6 weeks ago, where John Wichel, a grad student at USF, asked why not? By the end of class after a little arguing, they figured it was possible and put out a call for 1200 systems. Today they are flash-testing whether they can make a supercomputer that can compete with the top 500th biggest computer in the world which cost around $25 million. But this one is essentially free, because it's made up of 600+ computers lent to the project by students, faculty and the community. Mostly over the last month, he said they, the students in the class this project originated in, have been trying to figure out how to architect the software, to get all the computers connected. Some students were up all night last night still writing code. They did a lot of small scale testing the past couple of weeks until yesterday when they tested about 100 computers.


It's "super computing in a flash," says Andrew Bolles, hired documentarian for this project. A media science undergrad, he's been filming, tagging along behind the makers of this supercomputer for a month. He's doing all the editing and storyboarding too, and will make a documentary so that the makers of this project can show people what they did to pull this event and supercomputer together.

The idea has been out there for a long time, and one example is the SETI@Home program, which I've been doing for the last 5 years. Users donate their systems when not in use to SETI which harnesses the processors using highspeed bandwidth connections across the internet. The Flashmob Supercomputer in the middle of Koret Gym is doing the same thing today, all at once but all in the same location.

At the end, the project makers want to hand out CDs to laptop donators and post an image of the software to the web so that people can do the same thing with small groups of computers at home, etc. Also, they are licensing it open source so that people can modify and improve it.

Posted by Mary Hodder at April 3, 2004 12:08 PM | TrackBack