Why use BOINC?
Use BOINC if you need lots of cheap computing power. BOINC lets you access two classes of computing resources:
- The desktop PCs owned by your organization (Desktop Grid computing);
- PCs volunteered by the general public (Volunteer computing).
Suppose you need a lot of computing power - say, 100 TeraFLOPS for 1 year. Here are some ways you can get it:
- Use Amazon's Elastic Computing Cloud: $175 Million
- Based on $0.10 per node/hour.
- Build a cluster: $12.4 Million
- This includes power and air-conditioning infrastructure, network hardware, computing hardware, storage, electricity, and sysadmin personnel.
- Use BOINC: $125,000
- Based on the average throughput and budget of the 6 largest volunteer computing projects.
What's the catch?
To get lots of computing power this way, you'll need to do some unusual things:
- Publicize and promote your project, on the web and if possible in the media.
- Devote some resources to managing and communicating with your volunteer community.
- Get your applications to run on a wide range of computer types.
What applications can BOINC handle?
BOINC works best with "bag of task" computations - large sets of independent jobs - with modest memory and storage requirements. Typical applications include:
- Simulations of physical systems
- Compute-intensive analysis of large data sets
- Exploration of large search spaces (including genetic algorithm).
BOINC doesn't require you to rewrite your applications. You can even use existing executables without source code.
If you're part of an organization such as a university, you should consider the various organizational levels at which BOINC can be used. There is an overhead in creating and maintaining a BOINC project, and it can be advantageous to amortize this overhead across multiple scientists. Some possibilities:
- Some projects (Primegrid, chess960) are run by private individuals.
- Most current projects are run by individual scientists or research groups.
- Einstein@home is run by a multi-university research consortium (LIGO).
- Application-centered academic community
- Mindmodeling.org serves researchers from about 20 universities who all use the same application (the ACT-R cognitive modeling system).
- Research institute
- LHC@home servers multiple groups at CERN
- Umbrella organization
- IBM World Community Grid handles applications from ~8 different research groups.
- Campus-level project
- This would provide a Virtual Campus Supercomputing Center.