Feature - BOINC gets social with Facebook
For the first time, Facebook users are signing on to volunteer grid computing, thanks to a new application called Progress thru Processors.
"For all the promise of volunteer computing, the problem is that no one's ever heard of it," said Matt Blumberg, executive director of Grid Republic, "and that's a big deal for a technology where the utility of the thing is a function of the number of people who participate."
Progress thru Processors could change all that. The project was developed jointly by Intel, Grid Republic, and the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing. BOINC, which was originally created at University of California at Berkeley to assist in analyzing data in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), is the platform on which Grid Republic's software is based. Progress thru Processors is an adaptation of Grid Republic's software.
Since the application was launched on 3 August, it has gained over 6,000 fans on Facebook. Frederic Ronflette, a Belgian IT security manager, is one of them. "If Facebook didn't start with it I probably would never take part of it," he said. Ronflette installed the Facebook application on his laptop, and liked it so much that he downloaded the original Grid Republic version to run on his personal computer.
According to Blumberg, Facebook was an obvious choice. "One of the main goals of this project is to provide a way for people to find out about it, and to find a way for them to subsequently easily join," he explained. "We want to make it point-and-click easy."
The application is not only easy to use, it's also anonymous - unlike the Grid Republic software.
For Intel, the project's primary sponsor, Facebook was a shoe-in because of the success they've had with it on other projects. "We knew its value in spreading the word is strong, and we want to do what we can," said John Cooney, Intel's online programs manager.
By integrating with Facebook, Progress thru Processors is also harnessing the power of social networking. "It allows you to share your experiences and contributions with your Facebook friends," explained Cooney.
Ronflette is a great example of the power of social networking. He shared the application with all of his contacts - even the ones who aren't on Facebook. He even convinced his 60-year-old mother to sign up, and tell all of her friends about it.
"She's spending all of her day on Facebook, so I told her, why don't you use this application also?" explained Ronflette. "She's maybe directly concerned because she did have breast cancer. I said to her maybe people sharing processing power helped you, and so if you share yours maybe you can help others."
-Miriam Boon, iSGTW