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IBM - World Community Grid

Added on 22-03-2013

Company

IBM

Year

2007

Business challenge

Every day, millions of personal computers sit idle on desks and in people's homes around the world.  What if instead of idling away their time, these computers could be turned into powerful research tools?

To help solve pressing social problems, modern scientific research projects require massive computational power, more than can be provided from available supercomputers. 

The question is: How can idle computers be put to use in a positive way to promote research and advancement?

Description

As the world's largest IT company and a thought leader in applying technology to the important social issues, IBM, in partnership with leading science institutions, has developed World Community Grid, an innovative global humanitarian effort to harness unused computing power of individual and business computers and direct that power toward research designed to help address the world's most difficult health and societal problems.  By donating unused computer time through World Community Grid, individuals can begin to change the world for the better.

World Community Grid's mission is to create the world's largest public computing grid to tackle projects that benefit humanity.  World Community Grid makes technology available only to public and not-for-profit organisations to use in humanitarian research that might otherwise not be completed due to the high cost of the computer infrastructure required in the absence of a public grid.

Grid computing joins together many individual computers, creating a large system with massive computational power that far surpasses the power of a handful of supercomputers. Because the work is split into small pieces that can be processed simultaneously, research time is reduced from years to months.  The technology is also more cost-effective, enabling better use of critical funds.

When idle, a computer will request data on a specific project from World Community Grid's server.  It will then perform computations on this data, send the results back to the server and ask the server for a new piece of work.  Each computation that your computer performs provides scientists with critical information that accelerates the pace of research.

Impact

  • World Community Grid was first promoted externally through IBM's business network but some companies were not able to overcome their concerns about security
  • The company had to broaden its approach and target different audiences to continue to increase membership

Challenges/Lessons learned:

  • Nine projects have been undertaken including research into AIDS drugs, climate modelling in Africa, Dengue Fever, etc.   
  • 325,500 members and 740,000 devices gave 112,758 run time years
  • Positioned IBM as a thought leader in the application of technology to social issues and helped IBM engage with stakeholders

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