Feature - No excuse for under-utilization: Clemson back-fills with BOINC
Clemson University in South Carolina is helping to tackle climate change, muscular dystrophy, cancer and a host of other world problems. The university’s School of Computing contributes the unused power of computers in instructional labs to the World Community Grid (WCG), a not-for-profit endeavor sponsored by IBM which uses the BOINC grid platform.
Before arriving at Clemson, Sebastien Goasguen, assistant professor in the School of Computing, had deployed a campus Condor pool at Purdue University and configured it as an Open Science Grid (OSG) site. Finding about 1500 Windows machines at Clemson, he got the first such pool for Windows running in January 2007.
This pool represents a unique mix of cyberinfrastructure technologies that bring together three types of computing grids—campus (Clemson), national (OSG) and volunteer (BOINC).
“Few grid jobs are tailored for Windows machines. We’re able to run some jobs for OSG’s ‘Engage’ Virtual Organization (used by many non-physics research teams) and NanoHUB,” says Goasguen who heads up the team of students, professors and Clemson Computing and Information Technology staff. But Clemson’s resources were still under-utilized, so his team set up Condor to back-fill with BOINC jobs from the WCG.
“We put in place a multi-tiered job pool guaranteeing that our grid is utilized fully. OSG VOs such as LIGO and the LHC experiments can use our grid in two ways: as “vanilla” OSG jobs and through their respective BOINC projects Einstein@home and LHC@home,” he says.
The current effort is focused on switching resources to different BOINC projects automatically. Clemson wants the ability to quickly and flexibly devote the whole campus to a specific project. They are using Einstein@home and LHC@home to test, but for now Clemson remains a significant contributor to the WCG.
According to IBM, Clemson has been contributing more than four CPU years per day to the WCG’s problem-solving infrastructure. Clemson has at times been first in the nation for contributions among WCG teams, and as high as fourth in the world. Clemson is consistently ranked among the top five universities in the United States for computing power contributed.
“Most computers at universities are under-utilized. For instance, at night when everyone sleeps, the computers are idle,” says Goasguen. “By joining the WCG, we maximize our utilization by virtually donating computers when we don’t use them. In doing so, we contribute to humanitarian causes.”
To check out Clemson’s stats or to join the team, go to the World Community Grid Web site.
—Susan Polowczuk, Clemson University; and Anne Heavey, iSGTW
Adapted from “Clemson University turns idle computer time into solutions for world problems” by Susan Polowczuk.