March 22, 2002 1:15 PM PST

Google takes on supercomputing

Google has begun an experiment that could turn its modest toolbar software into a supercomputer to tackle scientific problems such as untangling genetic codes.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based Internet search company invited 500 people to try out a new version of its toolbar that lets Windows users donate their computers' otherwise unused processing power to the Folding@home project at Stanford University. The project seeks to figure out how genetic information is converted into proteins, complex molecules whose three-dimensional structure is key to everything from fighting off a cold to transporting oxygen around the body.

The work is the latest example of the distributed computing movement, in which computing jobs are farmed out in small chunks to ordinary PCs across the Internet, finding a use for otherwise untapped processing cycles. The movement has had grand ambitions to cure cancer, but thus far its chief successes have been curiosities such as the discovery of gigantic prime numbers.

There's no denying the popular appeal of some of the projects, however, which can pit hundreds of thousands of participants in contests to see who can crunch the most numbers.

The Google Compute project illustrates how the approach to even the most ornery problems of computing science is changing. Supercomputers once were isolated, expensive systems affordable only to the likes of aerospace companies, national laboratories and well-funded universities. But all that is changing with the arrival of the Internet, omnipresent PCs and ever-faster network technology.

"The main motivations were to try to leverage Google's expertise with large computer systems and to try to give something back to science," said Susan Wojcicki, a Google product management director and the head of the Google Compute project.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin initiated the project, Wojcicki said, and people started trying the software two weeks ago. An option on Google's toolbar lets the participants in the project download the necessary software to their computer. Google is considering offering the program to a larger audience, Wojcicki added.

"From what I saw, it simply rocks!" said one enthusiastic person who sampled the software. "When I move my mouse across that little DNA icon, it tells me what protein it is folding and what percentage it has completed."

A moneymaker?
Google likely will expand the program to include other scientific endeavors, and possibly even computational problems, to benefit its search business, Wojcicki said. But Google Compute isn't likely to become a source of revenue.

"You never want to say never, but the goal now is to contribute something to science. We have enough fish to fry in our current businesses," Wojcicki said.

Google, having secured its position as a top search engine, has been pulling out all the stops to increase its revenue--likely in anticipation of an initial public offering, some believe. The company's grander aspirations have been visible in features such as a news feed, targeted advertisements, commercial search services and catalogs.

Distributed computing is just one part of the overhaul of the supercomputing world. For one, existing supercomputers are being linked into "grids" of shared computing and storage resources such as the Energy Department's Science Grid, unveiled Friday. For another, groups of inexpensive Linux computers can be linked with high-speed networks to form a cheap "Beowulf" computer.

Yet distributed computing has given supercomputing efforts popular appeal.

The best-known distributed computing project has been SETI@home, which scans radio telescope signals for extraterrestrial communication signals. Distributed computing began with more abstruse projects, however, such as hunts for Mersenne prime numbers, optimal Golomb rulers and Fermat numbers.

Though SETI@home hasn't uncovered any alien chitchat, distributed computing has had its successes. Most recently, one effort with 210,000 participating computers uncovered a 4,053,946-digit prime number, the largest found so far.

Getting the word out
Google's toolbar addresses one of the key obstacles in distributed computing: propagating the software to all the computers involved in the effort. And if people are eager to participate in the distributed computing program, they might be more inclined to install the toolbar, which beefs up Web browsers with links to Google's search engine.

The Google Compute software works on Windows 98, Me, 2000 and XP, Google said.

In the more exuberant climate of Internet business of the late 1990s, several start-ups seized the idea that money could be made by selling processing power to pharmaceutical companies and others.

The prospect faded, though; one site, Popular Power, shut down, and e-mail provider Juno Online Services ran into controversy when it tried out the idea. Distributed computing as a business prospect today generally is focused on using a corporation's own computers, a much more controlled and predictable environment than the entire Internet.

Companies involved in this arena included United Devices, Turbolinux, Sun Microsystems, Parabon Computation, Platform Computing and Avaki, formerly Applied MetaComputing.

Some companies still sponsor distributed computing projects that extend to the entire Internet, however. United Devices' network helped to screen molecules that could be related to anthrax. And Parabon is involved with the Compute Against Cancer effort to boost cancer research.


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Supercomputing on your Desktop by NetAlter!!!
NetAlter claims to have already discovered a way to provide a desktop computer with supercomputing abilities.

Here is the complete press release on BusinessWire

"When Was the Last Time You Felt Your Desktop PC Speed Was Blazing Fast? Probably Never!"

UMBAI, India--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Feb. 20, 2006--The hard fact is that no matter how fast your personal computer is, there is a limit on how fast applications will perform using the power of a single computer.

Be it the latest Word Processor or the ultra realistic flight simulator. Whenever a new version is released, you have to compulsorily upgrade your computer to increase the speed and performance of the application.

And then, we would all wish ... that somehow we could have the power of the supercomputer on our desktop.

NetAlter aims to turn your wish into reality by implementing a democratic supercomputing GRID model for personal use.

Basically, what this means is that when you install NetAlter on your desktop PC, it has the capability to deliver supercomputer level processing speed for your day to day applications.

NetAlter which is based on a patent pending "Information, Communication and Computational" (ICC) technology will provide users with the option to share their local resources on the NetAlter GRID and in return receive a proportionate amount of supercomputing power from the GRID to run their NetAlter based applications.

If a user has shared 10% of their local resources, NetAlter will make available 10% of the supercomputing GRID for this user. The NetAlter supercomputing GRID is a network of FREE and SHARED resources of individual users available for use by other users.

When a user runs a search query or a NetAlter based application, the processing task is distributed over the supercomputing GRID and thus executed at blazing speeds.

Unlike the present supercomputing GRID model (which is a one way street utilizing the free processing power of your PC to run scientific applications such as SETI), the sharing of the GRID in NetAlter is a two way process and the technology works seamlessly without the user having to learn how to setup a supercomputer or the functions of this technology.

The NetAlter GRID will be available FREE of cost to the user based on a democratic shared model where the user gets as much processing power as he or she is willing to share.

Once this feature is activated on the user's personal computer, NetAlter will distribute the processing tasks of the local computer on this supercomputing GRID and thus execute the application faster.


NetAlter at the moment is a patent pending System and Method. NetAlter Software Limited is in the process of developing the software framework and the browser application which will implement this system and method.

However, much of the modular software development will be done by independent developers, who will be provided the license to apply the system and method for their applications to run on the NetAlter Software Framework, using the browser application container.

We would like to invite the developer community to join us, in delivering the goals that we have set out, for providing supercomputing power to the desktop.

Supercomputing GRID is just one of the solutions on offer by NetAlter. There are many more exciting features that NetAlter will deliver. To learn more about NetAlter, visit

We would also like you to join us in discussing this technology and its features on our public discussion board at <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a> or alternatively write to us at

More information on NetAlter is available in our earlier press release at <a class="jive-link-external" href=";newsId=20060213005729&#38;newsLang=en" target="_newWindow">;newsId=20060213005729&#38;newsLang=en</a>

Rajesh Rathod, +91(022) 25915994
Posted by guyfrom2006 (33 comments )
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Correction on NetAlter
NetAlter has issued a correction to their earlier press release on "Supercomputing for the desktop" which said if the user shares 10% of their resources, it will get 10% from the GRID.

The corrected statement is as follows;

"If a user has shared their local resources and NetAlter makes use of this resource for 10 hours, the same is credited to the users account.

When the user wants to make use of NetAlter GRID for supercomputing and wants to process their application on 10 computers on the GRID, the user can make use of the 10 hours credited to their account to avail of 1 hour of NetAlter GRID supercomputing resources equivalent to the power of 10 computers. If the user wants the application to be distributed over 20 computers, the NetAlter GRID will provide equivalent supercomputing resources of 30 minutes.

This will be provided free of cost. However, if the user does not have any usage hours credited to their account, then they can purchase the same from the NetAlter GRID for a fee."
Posted by guyfrom2006 (33 comments )
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