Alex Miller lives in St. Louis. He writes code for a living and currently work for Terracotta Tech on the Terracotta open-source Java clustering product. Prior to Terracotta he worked at BEA Systems and was Chief Architect at MetaMatrix. His main language for the last decade has been Java, although Alex have been paid to program in several languages over the years (C++, Python, Pascal, etc). Alex has posted 43 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Mobile grid apps

01.18.2008
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In the wake of Google Android, people from three different grid vendors have written about mobile grids: me from Terracotta, Bob Lozano from Appistry, and Nikita Ivanov from GridGain. I think Bob and I both had the reaction of..."cool, but what would you do with it?"

And indeed when taking from a pure cycles High Performance Computing point of view, I don't see that it makes much sense. Even with the rapid improvement of mobile processors, I don't think the cycles you're getting are going to rival servers, even at massive quantities. Not to mention that running a (necessarily) compute-intensive task on your phone would kill the battery time and/or make it unusable for other applications like, you know, calling people.

But then I read Charlie Stross's new novel Halting State over the holiday break. This book is set in near-future (2012) and features as context a series of massively multi-player games that run over mobile phones in a distributed non-centralized grid. State is shared redundantly but not in a centralized manner and secured with encryption.

This item of synchronicity let me think about it a bit differently. There are absolutely applications for non-centralized shared-state grid computing on mobile. They just aren't the kinds of compute-intensive HPC apps that grid vendors focus on. I think there is a lot of interesting territory here and it seems likely to me that location-aware and environment-aware distributed computing apps are going to be ever more prevalent in the future as the devices become ubiquitous and standards emerge.

BTW, I'll have to drop a plug for Stross in general - he has rapidly become one of my favorite science fiction authors. A great place to start with him is his book Accelerando, which just happens to be available free via Creative Commons as an ebook.

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Alex Miller.

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