Thursday, May 13, 2010 9:31 AM
There is a lot of hype about "the cloud" these days. We have just begun to explore it's potential. The utility of the cloud that attracted us is in the ability for distributed systems to multiply computing power to serve an important cause. Green Moon has signed up on a trial basis to participate in Stanford University's Folding@Home project:
Folding@home is a distributed computing project -- people from throughout the world download and run software to band together to make one of the largest supercomputers in the world.
When proteins do not fold correctly (i.e. "misfold"), there can be serious consequences, including many well known diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Mad Cow (BSE), CJD, ALS, Huntington's, Parkinson's disease, and many Cancers and cancer-related syndromes.
We took advantage of a free webinar from Microsoft, where developers demonstrated how to use Microsoft's Azure cloud service to set up multiple instances of the Folding@Home project. The hands-on demo includes code provided by Microsoft and a demonstration of how to load projects into the cloud. The coding is done in C#.net and the demo uses Visual Studio (2008 or 2010 versions). The workshop is 2 hours long and there is a recorded video of the step-by-step process for those of us who learn through repetition. There are workshop slots open through June 23, 2010. You can sign up here. (There are a few prerequisites to install, which are discussed on the site.)
For those participating in the demo, instead of the typical "Hello World" project, they will actually launch a cloud-based project that contributes to Folding@Home's research. You can view a world map here that shows everyone participating in the demo.
Once our free 2-week Azure trial expires, we will explore how much it would cost to maintain the system on a subscription basis.
You can also participate in Folding@Home as an individual, on your home or office comuter. There are versions of the program that will work on Linux or Mac platforms (and even Playstation3), in addition to Windows. However, you will only be able to run one instance of the program. The benefit of using Microsoft's C# wrapper and hosting it in the cloud is that you can run multiple instances of the program (up to 19 with the free trial of Azure and more if you have a paid subscription).
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