FW: Scientists benefit from Purdue's unused computer cycles

Eugene Garfield eugene.garfield at THOMSON.COM
Wed Dec 13 14:05:18 EST 2006

Of possible interest to bibliometricians,etc. EG


From: owner-anhz at purdue.edu [mailto:owner-anhz at purdue.edu] On Behalf Of
Purdue News
Sent: Wednesday, December 13, 2006 10:05 AM
To: anhz at purdue.edu
Subject: Scientists benefit from Purdue's unused computer cycles




December 13, 2006 

Scientists benefit from Purdue's unused computer cycles

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Computing cycles are the fuel that powers
science, and computer experts at Purdue University have found a way to
double their mileage. 

Condor usage 
Download graphic
caption below

Even at a buzzing major research university, computers are idle about
half the time. There are nights and weekend periods when the machines
are available, and there are periods during the day when no jobs are

At Purdue, computers are in use almost continuously, thanks to an
innovative approach to distributed computing that sends work to the
computers day and night. 

"We're harvesting waste cycles and putting them to good use," says Gerry
McCartney, Purdue's interim vice president for information technology
and chief information officer. 

Purdue has enough unused cycles that, through a project funded in part
by the National Science Foundation, it is powering scientific research
at other institutions, as well.

The university has more than 4,300 computers of all sizes - from desktop
machines used by students to do homework and check e-mail, up to large,
powerful research computers - that are linked together in what is known
as a pool. If a computer anywhere in the pool stops working, even for a
few seconds, jobs are sent to it for processing.

To capture available computer cycles, Purdue uses open source software
called Condor <http://www.cs.wisc.edu/condor/>  to direct jobs within
the pool. The computers in the Condor pool at Purdue are used roughly 45
percent of the time for their intended purpose and 45 percent for
Condor-assisted projects. They are only idle 10 percent of the time.

Miron Livny <http://www.cs.wisc.edu/%7Emiron/> , a professor of computer
science at the University of Wisconsin, first developed Condor in the
1980s. He says that Purdue has more machines running Condor than any
other university.

"Other campuses should follow Purdue's leadership," Livny says. "I
believe this is the right way for us to move science forward. We should
get organized and get our resources together, and then go out on the
national level and share resources with other institutions." 

The process is similar to the international SETI at home project, which
uses personal computers on the Internet to analyze radio signals
captured by telescopes to search for extraterrestrial life. In this
case, however, Purdue makes its unused computing cycles available to
other researchers across the nation via a national research network, the
NSF-funded TeraGrid <http://www.teragrid.org/> .

Michael Deem <http://www.mwdeem.rice.edu/mwdeem/> , Rice University's
John W. Cox Professor of Biochemical and Genetic Engineering and a
professor of physics and astronomy, has used nearly 1 million hours of
computer cycles from Purdue to catalog the chemical structure of
compounds called zeolites. These chemical catalysts are used in
everything from laundry detergent (25 percent of powdered laundry
detergent is made up of zeolites) to refining gasoline. 

Deem aims to identify and categorize as many of these structures as
possible so that chemical engineers can select the exact zeolite they
need. This is just the kind of high-throughput job that works well on
Purdue's distributed computing system. 

"The throughput is much higher there than I can get locally because of
the large size of the Condor pool at Purdue," Deem says. "Purdue is
doing a great service to the scientific community by providing this

McCartney says that sharing resources, such as unused computing cycles,
boosts scientific discovery. 

"Our ability to harness waste computing cycles, and then to offer them
to other scientists who can make use of them, shows that the Internet is
finally working the way it was supposed to."

Christoph Hoffmann, director of Purdue's Rosen Center for Advanced
Computing, says distributed computing using systems such as Condor are
more effective on some types of scientific research than others. Condor
is high-throughput computing, millions of a simple jobs can be given
over to a large number of machines in a process also known as serial

"It is good for bioinformatics, animation rendering, identifying
chemical structures, structural biology, high-energy physics - anything
where you need to do a similar task over and over," Hoffmann says.

Purdue also is using Condor on the TeraGrid to assist with an
international experiment in particle physics. CERN, the European
Organization for Nuclear Research, is building the world's largest
scientific instrument, the Large Hadon Collider. Purdue is one of 100
Tier-2 institutions assisting with the data that this instrument will

Hoffmann says tools like Condor allow the scientific community to pool
and leverage resources. 

"By using distributed computing, we can put it on the grid and use
computers around the world to process the data instead of having a
stadium full of computers at CERN."

Purdue's Rosen Center for Advanced Computing publishes a daily graph
<http://web.rcac.purdue.edu/condorview/lear/Day.html>  showing the
university's Condor usage.

Writer: Steve Tally, Information Technology at Purdue, (765) 494-9809, 
tally at purdue.edu

Sources: Gerry McCartney, (765) 496-2270, mccart at purdue.edu

Miron Livny, (608) 262-0856, miron at cs.wisc.edu

Michael Deem, (713) 348-5852, mwdeem at rice.edu

Christoph Hoffmann, (765) 494-6185, cmh at cs.purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews at purdue.edu

Purdue University has been able to double the output of nearly 5,000 of
its computers by using a system that captures computer cycles when the
computers aren't being used. The Purdue system includes the open source
software Condor and, in many weeks, the amount of computing done using
the Condor system (shown in blue on the chart) equals or exceeds the
work being done on the computers by their regular users. (Purdue
University graphic/Ty Filby, Information Technology at Purdue) 

A publication-quality graphic is available at 


To the News Service <http://news.uns.purdue.edu>  home page 



No virus found in this incoming message.
Checked by AVG Free Edition.
Version: 7.1.409 / Virus Database: 268.15.18/585 - Release Date:

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://mail.asis.org/pipermail/sigmetrics/attachments/20061213/56a86711/attachment.html>
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: releaselogo.gif
Type: image/gif
Size: 6148 bytes
Desc: releaselogo.gif
URL: <http://mail.asis.org/pipermail/sigmetrics/attachments/20061213/56a86711/attachment.gif>
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: condorgraphLO.jpg
Type: image/jpeg
Size: 54418 bytes
Desc: condorgraphLO.jpg
URL: <http://mail.asis.org/pipermail/sigmetrics/attachments/20061213/56a86711/attachment.jpg>

More information about the SIGMETRICS mailing list