RealTime IT News

Got Some Spare CPU Cycles? Sell Them

In the history of public distributed computing projects, there have been several common elements: each project had one entity behind it, no money was involved, and you always knew what your computer was crunching away at.

CPUShare, however, is different in several ways. First, by registering with the service and installing the client software, you make your computer generally available for anyone looking to hire some spare CPU cycles for a big processing job.

CPUShare server will handle the distribution and management of the processing job, including payment. Yes, payment. As part of signing up for CPUShare and lending your spare cycles, there is payment involved. Whether it will pay the electric bill for running your CPU at 100 percent utilization remains to be seen.

CPUShare was started by Andrea Arcangeli, an Italian programmer involved in Linux kernel development. He had never been interested in distributed computing before creating CPUShare.

"The first problem I had with distributed computing with projects like BOINC or Folding@Home that they require the user to donate cash in order to join. The CPU consumes much more power when computing than when it's doing nothing at all, plus the CPU ages more quickly when computing than when not computing," he told internetnews.com via e-mail.

"The second problem I had with those projects is technical: they execute untrusted binary blobs  on my computer without any strong jailing technology. The third problem is about fairness: it was unclear to me who was really benefiting from those expensive CPU resource donations," he added.

To address this, he created CPUShare, which will allow sellers to make their computer available to anyone who wants to buy CPU time online. Sellers set up an account, with payment coming through PayPal, and they can specify how much they want for their spare cycles. Arcangeli said the going rate is currently around two Euro cents per hour, hardly retirement money.

Getting buyers is "the million dollar question," he admitted. "All I can do is to publish in the homepage the total idle mflops and MIPS that CPUShare is crunching at every given time, in the hope to attract buyers," he said.

The project is still under development, as he works on the payment and invoice components as well as anti-fraud algorithms.

Arcangeli isn't sure who will be drawn to the project as CPU buyers, but doesn't expect it to be used by large-scale organizations. "CPUShare if nothing else is meant to be used by the niche of users that can't afford to donate any cash through their electricity bill and by the projects that don't want to depend on donations to succeed," he said.