You might soon be selling your spare computer power over the internet, or perhaps buying in extra resources to solve a tricky problem. In either case, network administration used to be a stumbling block – until European researchers developed a successful free-market approach to grid computing.
Existing grids generally use a centralised system, rather like an eBay auction, to match “sellers” to “buyers”. According to Torsten Eymann, this is fine for small grids, but does not scale up well: “Centralised systems struggle with a network of just 3,000 buyers and sellers, so a grid to cover the whole of Europe, say, would be very complex.” And because each transaction is for just a few seconds or minutes of computer time, he adds, administration needs to be quick and cheap.
It will be interesting to see the results of this study: most importantly how they deal with the political aspects of selling CPU cycles from publicly funded Universities, but also how they will deal with different applications, architectures, system failures, network bandwidth, change in power costs and the price of disk storage.