Doing good things with computers

Why we donate computing time to the World Community Grid.

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Grid computing systems are one of those technologies which have literally changed the world, but there's a good chance you may never have even heard of them.

The concept behind grid computing is fairly simple:  Take a computational task, split it into lots of small chunks and get lots of computers to deal with them.    By using this idea of distributing the workload to lots of computers, huge amounts of work can be carried out very quickly; far more than could be achieved with even the most powerful single computers.

This may all seem like a slightly abstract concept, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that this strange world is the domain of geeks and mad scientists.  You'd be wrong.

The projects which run on grid systems target very real, every-day issues.  Some perform simulations to test how new drug formulations may work on talking disease.  Some search through billions of lines of data, searching for patterns to allow for better and earlier detection of critical illness.  Some analyse the signals from radio telescopes to help us better understand the universe around us.  The list goes on and on.

The projects aren't just about research and writing scientific papers either;  a number of real-world discoveries have been made in the fields of cancer research, malaria prevention, and world health.  Discoveries which are saving real people's lives every day.

The beauty of grid projects such as these is that anyone with a computer can contribute.  You don't need to have a supercomputer in the garden shed, or a mainframe locked away in a secure bunker;  your every-day laptop or desktop will do.    You download and install a small program which runs quietly in the background, crunching data for good causes.

The World Community Grid is one of a number of grid computing projects we support.  It's a non-profit organisation, supported by IBM and providing data-processing to a wide range of research projects.  In addition to our PCs, we also run dedicated grid machines to undertake work.  

In a world that sometimes feels ever-turbulent, looking at the statistics for the various grid projects is reassuring. Knowing that so many individuals from so many nations still want to do good things for other people without personal gain, goes a long way to confirming faith in human-nature.

If you'd like to get involved in a WCG project, click here to visit the site.