by   |    |  Estimated reading time: 5 minutes  |  in Creativity & Innovation   |  tagged ,

After a natural disaster strikes a communityyou will see neighbors joining ranks and helping each other with cleanup and recovery. It will take a village, too, for us to recover from the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

But increasingly, this is a distributed, digital village. As a period of social isolation drags on, people are connecting with each other digitally, across video chat and messaging apps, and we can feel the divide between us shrink. Technologies including distributed computing, however, are erasing an even more important divide by connecting technologists globally with researchers who need compute power to do critical drug and novel vaccines discoveryThe computing power necessary to model proteins and predict what proteins will bond with each other is substantialand the information for designing tests and treatments for disease is critical. 

Today, it is possible for enterprise software to run on a distributed network of servers in the cloud, enabling easily scalable compute capacity of an endless array of servers. This cloud computing capacity is not free. But researchers can harness the power of the cloud through an emerging model—public resource computing. This is giving many researchers the compute power to run advanced modeling and predictive calculations as they try to crack medical mysteries—including the protein structures of the coronavirus, the pathogen that causes COVID-19. 

Digital transformation changes how we do things

A number of collaborative projects are now focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Rosetta@Home project which IFS is supporting with capacity on its servers.  How can dozens or even hundreds or thousands of independent entities provide such a seamless environment for complex scientific modeling? shared, open, platform is essential, and BOINC (Berkley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) provides just this, with a downloadable application that lets volunteers donate idle computer time. Researchers, meanwhile, can set up a research project in the system in one hour or less. 

The system then, according to BOINCuses the compute capacity of volunteers’ computers to issue pull signals, indicating the central processing unit (CPU) or server is ready for additional work and then scans projects it is attached to for new tasks. The volunteer computer downloads the files required, executes the program and uploads the output files. 

Obviously, without a shared system based on open standards, this type of freeform collaboration could not take place. BOINC supports a number of public-resource, distributed computing projects, including cancer research and the SETI Institute, which is dedicated to exploring the origin of life in the universethe evolution of intelligence and the existence of extraterrestrial life. 


It is time to take action

BOINC has done its part in creating this collaborative environment—a shared digital space that exists everywhere and nowhere yet will help us solve some of the intractable problems facing humanity. It is now time for us to do our part as a business community 

IFS’s involvement in Rosetta@home did not start with senior management. It was not a branding exercise. It was initiated by one personIFS Principal Software Engineer Fredrik Stenen, who manages the servers used for our enterprise testing. He understood how spare capacity on our servers looked, and he understood the importance of a village coming together to support this initiative. To get IFS in the ranks of supporters, Fredrik reviewed the security protocols, gathered the support of IFS leadership and signed up.  

What we need is more people like Fredrik, who are ready to step up and contribute to this vital effort. On the one hand, we are proud to be, with the 130 cores Fredrik could provide, in the top one percent of contributors to Rosetta@homeOn the other hand, I really want to be knocked off that perch by dozens and hundreds of other corporate donors. We need more power focused on this problem. I encourage you to investigate what your impact can be for projects like Rosetta@home.  

Compute power is not the only way the village needs to come together to make a differenceIFS customers are contributing in dozens of ways—from retooling to manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE) to conducting vaccine research. But Rosetta@home is an excellent example of how disruptive cloud computing can really be, helping us come together to compress the time required to arrive at treatments, vaccines and effective tests. Please, join us, in supporting this critical initiative. As Frederik shows us, it takes a village to solve this problem, and that means each of us as individuals can take the initiative to help their neighbor.  

Learn more at Rosetta@home.

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