Why I Am Proud to Support World Community Grid

I am extremely passionate about the use of IT for philanthropic means. I am a member of the World Community Grid and pleased to support its programmes of research which are helping to power cutting-edge research in health, poverty and sustainability. Sadly I lost my mother to cancer ten years ago and believe that we have made ground-breaking leaps forward partly due to the research successes from the Grid community. This is an excellent example of the use of IT for good.

This poses me often with something of a problem. I have on many occasions over the past 14 years of working with the IT industry have had on several occasions the opportunity to suggest that other companies I have been involved with decide to engage with WCG for themselves. There is however a valid reason NOT to engage with grid computing if you are a company. There are two main objections which I have encountered and would like to discuss both here:

The security of the network cannot be put at risk by exposing it to outside influences – this is in itself a valid argument, however most networks have a ‘demilitarised zone’ (DMZ) – an area used for testing, also for hosting a Website Server, or ‘Honeypot’/’Honeynet’ for engaging with the public. The DMZ itself is completely protected from the more internal network. There is not need for the company to engage with all PCs within the company, rather perhaps just one public-facing server.

The increased power usages to the network negate the involvement in the project – again, a valid argument. WCG will cause the processor to work ‘flat-out’ for up to 8 hours on a work task. However, in the realm of teaching companies the PC is often unused, or used for one small task which is far within the parameters of the system which if anything is designed with hardware far exceeding the requirements for their task (e.g. Microsoft Word) and can then allow the remainder to be used for philanthropic causes. If the company financially allocate an involvement in philanthropic or charitable causes then the financial cost is very small indeed. Their involvement with the Grid can of course be as large or small as they deem fit. For myself, at a bare minimum my smartphone can run WCG tasks. I also run an Azure ‘cloud’ server with Microsoft Windows Server 2008 installed which is acting as a dedicated processing server for WCG tasks.

The PCs may be needed by staff for productive tasks – This is true, however the ‘computing server’ can be ‘Hypervised’, also can run alongside the tasks being performed by the end user with negligible effect.

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