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Dedicated Cycles: The Folding@home Project Models COVID-19

Posted on
April 1, 2020
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The Folding@home project focuses on disease research by enabling disparate IT users and organizations to donate compute cycles and provide extra compute power complex disease modeling scenarios. The distributed computing project simulates protein dynamics, including the process of protein folding and the movements of proteins implicated in a variety of diseases. Research focus areas include breast cancer, kidney cancer, and epigenetics.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, participants in the project have directed substantial energies and resources on better understanding how proteins in the virus function. Using computer simulations and other techniques, Folding@home is working to help design therapeutics that can be used to stop the virus.

Liqid Solutions Test Engineer Mark McKeen has spearheaded Liqid’s efforts to participate in the Folding@home project, and is currently supervising our contributions to the efforts. Here he answers questions about the project and Liqid’s participation in it.

How long have you personally been volunteering your time to the project?  

I've been active in the distributed computing community since the late 90s, running Folding@home and SETI@Home (which uses internet-connected computers to search for extraterrestrial intelligence) for around 20 years. I usually do this anonymously due to the simplicity of installing the client and just letting it run.

How active has Liqid been in this compute crowdsourcing effort?

I use Folding@home as my thermal load test when conditions permit. Anonymously, Liqid has folded thousands of work units over the past few years. I wanted to make sure that other startups, businesses, and private individuals understand the importance of the project, see that we are going to be running as many compute nodes as possible, and strongly consider dedicating their own resources to the effort whenever possible. I've been successful in my goal to get many individuals and organizations on board with the project.

Talk a little about how the process of dedicating resources to Folding@home works.

Installing Folding@home is pretty much point and click on any x86 system. All that you need to do is go to foldingathome.org and download the client that matches your operating system. You choose to donate folding compute anonymously or set up a user and passkey, making it easier to track your progress.

Folding@home can be run as a dedicated node or as a service that runs when you're not using the machine. If you choose to set it up on your home PC, you won't notice it's running, so long as you set it to run when to machine is idle.

Why is it important for companies like Liqid to take part in the project?

Every business has what I refer to as "cold hardware"; CPUs and GPUs that sit idle between jobs. Companies with any amount of cold hardware should seriously consider donating that idle time to Folding@home.

Also, while it's existentially important that we all come together to fight COVID-19 in any way we can, after the virus is defeated we should, as industries and individuals, continue to donate these unused resources so that researchers can benefit. Folding@home isn't just running during a crisis. Research for cancer, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and other critical health issues are all available to donate compute to as well.

How can individuals and organizations learn more about taking part in the project?

They can go to folding@home.org, the Folding@home forums, or reach out to participating IT users on any social media site.

Find out how Liqid composable infrastructure solutions can accelerate the pace of scientific research. Download Liqid’s white paper, “Why Should Enterprises Move to a True Composable Infrastructure Solution,”today and begin mapping out your data center’s transformation free from vendor lock that can be detrimental to innovation. Learn more about Liqid’s technology and contact us to discuss your specific data center needs with a representative.

Written by
Posted on
April 1, 2020

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