Desktop grids and volunteer computing are just one of a number of ways in which researchers can access computing capacity. They can provide a useful complement to the other facilities in the e-infrastructure landscape. While supercomputers are able to solve a wide variety of complex computational problems they are expensive and are limited to a relatively small number of researchers. Volunteer desktop grids can provide a cheaper solution for more researchers, but for a more limited set of applications.
Today EDGI (the European Desktop Grid Initiative) is connecting volunteer desktop grids into the European Grid Infrastructure (EGI). EGI is a pan-European service grid that enables access to computing resources for European researchers from all fields of science, from High Energy Physics to Humanities. Having access to both the volunteer desktop grids and to EGI, which is available 24/7, gives scientists even more options for their research.
Desktop grids have high capacity but not a guaranteed quality of service as the available computing power depends on which computers are not being used. EDGI hopes to include a cloud in the e-infrastructure, which can be used as and when necessary. This will allow the service to be used by applications, which need to be completed within a specific deadline.
By integrating volunteer desktop grids with other e-infrastructures, researchers can run applications across different types of computing resources, matching parts of a computational problem to the most suitable execution environments. For example, some parts of an application can be run on a desktop grid and others on a high-end supercomputer or a high throughput computing grid.
What is an e-Infrastructure?e-Infrastructure is the term used for the integration of information technology and organisations that supports and enables scientific research. It embraces networks, grids, data centres, remote instruments and collaborative environments.
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