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Highlights from the Crowd Computing 2014 event

The organizers from the IDGF and AlmereGrid Foundations look back on a successful Crowd Computing 2014 event. The IDGF meeting welcomed 22 participants, including 3 remote presentations from IDGF members and the Workshop on Citizen Science Technology Platforms had 26 attendants, including 4 remote presenters.

The IDGF meeting concentrated on topics that are of direct interest to the member organisations of IDGF, especially those who operate Desktop Grids or Crowd Computing as we call it today. This year the focus was on 3 themes for Desktop Grid/Crowd computing operators and users: financial aspects, managing and operations, and communication, especially with citizens.

One of the new topics that emerged during the workshop on Citizen Science Technology Platforms was browser based Crowd Computing. Modern browsers have mostly implemented a very fast JavaScript engine. JavaScript programmes cannot only be used to calculate items to be displayed on the web page, but can do some rather heavy computational lifting these days. Several approaches and packages were discussed during the event. Philip Skinner talked about the http://Crowdca.lc browser based platform. Pedro Fonseca explained browser powered distributed computing, available at https://crowdprocess.com. There is also research going on in browser based computing platforms, as Reginald Cushing, University of Amsterdam, showed in his presentation about Distributed Computing on Browsers. The presenters also gave demos showing the technology is already a reality.

There were also several presentations with more information on financing Crowd computing. Charity Engine provided a working business model for commercial Crowd computing. Peter Hanappe summarized IDGF findings for volunteer based Crowd computing. He also looked at Green IT aspects, and introduced a measurement programme to collect data on the power usage and efficiency of applications running in Crowd computing.

The embedding of Crowd Computing in general frameworks that are used for instance in Smart City design and sensor clouds was discussed by Antonio Puliafito. There are more and more sensors, in the emerging Internet of Things, collecting more and more data. Frameworks are needed to collect, analyse and use this sensor data.

Probably the best example of an integrated use of all kinds of resources was given by David Wallom of Oxford university. Their Climate Prediction programme involves citizens, crowd computing platforms and federated Clouds. Because of the direct impact that Climate has on people's lives, it is easy to mobilise a lot of citizens, providing you do it on the right way.

The slides and video-taped presentations are available at:

http://crowdcomputing.eu/idgf-technical-meeting-2014
http://crowdcomputing.eu/workshop-2014

IDGF-SP project facts IDGF-SP project facts

Project acronym:

IDGF-SP
 
Contract n°: RI-312297
 
Project type: CSA-SA
 
Start date: 01/11/2012
 
Duration: 24 months
 
Total budget: 
964,190 €
 
Funding from the EC: 
860.000 €
 
Total funded effort in person-month:
136
 
Web site: 
http://idgf-sp.eu
 
Contact person:
Robert Lovas
email: rlovas[{at]}sztaki.hu
tel.: +36  1 329 7864 
fax.: +36 1 329 7864
 
Project participants:
MTA SZTAKI HU
ALMEREGRID NL
UOW UK
LU NL
SONY UK
CE UK
IDGF NL
 
Keywords:
Distributed Computing Infrastructure, e-Science, citizen, Desktop Grid, Green IT

Acknowledgement Acknowledgement

IDGF-SP is a project managed by the IDGF-SP consortium. IDGF-SP is supported by the FP7 Capacities Programme under grant agreement nr RI-312297. © IDGF-SP Website and IDGF-SP: IDGF-SP Consortium - 2012.

The IDGF-SP project The IDGF-SP project

There are over a billion PCs in the world. Most of these PCs can be found in citizens' homes and, to a lesser extent, in companies and universities. Most of these computers remain idle most of the time. About 1 million of them are active in supporting science in a volunteer computing grid and use their idle time to run scientific applications. The potential growth of this computing capacity is enormous. Many Desktop Grids have therefore decided to found the International Desktop Grid Federation (IDGF) to help each other improving their e- Infrastructures.

The IDGF-Support Project is giving the IDGF a boost in two important areas. Firstly it helps considerably with increasing the number of citizens that donate computing time to e-Science. It will do so by targeted communication activities and setting-up a network of "ambassadors". Secondly it helps universities' e-infrastructures to include otherwise idle PCs from their class rooms and offices. In addition IDGF-SP collects and analyses data that will help deploying idle PCs in an effective and energy efficient way. It has been shown that Desktop Grids can contribute to Green IT if used in the correct way. IDGF-SP is collecting data to underpin and advocate best practices.

As a result of IDGF-SP, the number of citizen volunteers donating computing to e-Science will increase significantly. By employing unused PCs in private Desktop Grid, universities and other research organizations, will save on their costs on providing computer capacity for their scientists. IDGF-SP will help strengthening the co-operation amongst Desktop Grid e- Infrastructure operators. IDGF-SP will encourage and help IDGF Desktop Grid providers to integrate their infrastructures into the main e-Science environment. The existence of a lively active IDGF community assures the swift take-up of the IDGF-SP project results.

During its first project year, IDGF-SP project has maintained and updated the Desktop Grid infrastructure, its connections with other distributed computing infrastructures (Grids and Clouds), and expanded the documentation. The core IDGF-SP infrastructure now consists of Desktop Grids from the partners, SZTAKI Desktop Grid, AlmereGrid, Charity Engine, ABC@home; and University of Westminster local desktop Grid, one general purpose Grid that is called EDGeS@home, and one dedicated for low-energy computing studies from SONY CSL. In total this core eInfrastructure have hundreds of thousand computers attached. In addition, IDGF-SP also did give support to other members of IDGF with setting up and maintaining Desktop Grids, including in Russian Federation and South-East Asia.

Several Desktop Grids are connected by Bridges to the European Grid Infrastructure (EGI). This allows researchers from all over Europe to easily submit jobs to volunteer desktop grids, or use spare capacities of the EGI infrastructure by volunteer projects. IDGF-SP has considerably improved the Bridge and virtualisation solutions and the related processes. Now it became easier to submit jobs, moreover accounting, support mechanism, and security adhere to the strict EGI requirements.

A document with best practices has been written that helps distributed computing infrastructure operators to set-up and install bridged desktop grids or simple deploy it automatically on-demand in the cloud.

Through collaborations with EGI and scientific communities, a number of killer applications have been prepared that will be used to attract more citizens in 2014. These applications will be made available in a relaunched EDGeS@home desktop grid. We will also more and more use "Crowd computing" instead of Desktop Grids. Crowd computing is easier to understand for non-techies.

IDGF-SP has considerably extended the portfolio of available scientific applications that can run in a crowd computing environment. The focus was on helping some large scientific user communities; including the BioVeL, WeNMR, and DIRAC user communities. BioVeL is a virtual e-laboratory that supports research on biodiversity issues using large amounts of data from crossdisciplinary sources. BioVeL offers the possibility to use computerised "workflows" (series of data analysis steps) to process data, be that from one's own research and/or from existing sources.

WeNMR is a Virtual Research Community supported by EGI, the largest one within the life science area. WeNMR aims at bringing together complementary research teams in the structural biology and life science area into a virtual research community at a worldwide level and provide them with a platform integrating and streamlining the computational approaches.

The DIRAC (Distributed Infrastructure with Remote Agent Control) project is a complete Grid solution for a community of users needing access to distributed computing resources. DIRAC forms a layer between a particular community and various compute resources to allow optimized, transparent and reliable usage. It is used in high-energy physics communities.

Comparisons of Desktop Grids with cloud computing and traditional centres are often made. Good data that can be used to make a fair comparison was largely lacking until the IDGF-SP started. Detailed analysis of IDGF-SP has shown that in comparison to a traditional data centre, a Desktop Grid is cheaper, and in most cases also greener.

IDGF-SP has produced detailed documents with financial and Green-IT aspects and comparison with other infrastructures including the experiments and experiences from SONY, Charity Engine and SZTAKI.

The project has produced several general tools that can help in setting-up and maintaining Desktop Grids for volunteer citizens. These tools will help to considerably increase the number of crowd computing volunteers in a secure and efficient fashion.

A new "Desktop Grid for eScience Road Map" is available to help organisations setting up Desktop Grids. The Road Map has a management part, aimed at management level in organisations that helps them assessing the potential value, and associating costs of setting up or participating in a desktop grid. The technical part of the Road map helps technical managers to actually implement a desktop grid.

Several tools have been developed that help explaining distributed computing technology to citizens. This includes a Raspberry Pi powered parallel computing video wall as part of a Crowd Computing demonstration corner.

IDGF-SP has started collaborating with other citizen science projects, including SOCIENTIZE, helping citizen scientists. In the specific collaboration with SOCIENTIZE we plan to combine the power of crowd computing with direct citizen involvement. A crowd computing programme called KOPI is first analysing texts for potential copy right infringements automatically using citizens' computers for pre-processing Wikipedia. In case of doubt, citizen scientists look to the text to make a final judgement, i.e. human intelligence is to be used soon.

During the second project year IDGF-SP will continue its activities to support Desktop Grid organisations that are organised in the International Desktop Grid Federation. We expect this will result in active user communities and many more citizens involved in donating computing time to science through crowd computing.