Slashdot reported yesterday that the BOINC distributed computing platform just passed the 2 PetaFLOPs mark in computing power. One FLOPS is one FLoating point Operation Per Second and one PetaFLOPS is 1015 or 1,000,000,000,000,000 operations per second. The combined power of all of the computers contributing to BOINC-based projects is more than twice as much as the power of the world’s current most powerful single supercomputer, Roadrunner.
Three times more powerful than BOINC is the project Folding@home, with almost 7 PetaFLOPS of computing power. This project has more computing power than the current top 15 supercomputers combined. A lot of the project’s computing power comes from non-traditional computing resources such as Sony Playstation 3s and specialized PC graphics cards. When more projects adapt their software clients to take advantage of these types of resources, and other resources such as mobile phones, PDAs and music players, we’ll see even more amazing gains in computing power.
All of this computing power is donated freely to these projects by volunteers, from computers which would otherwise be wasting that power while the computers were used to read email, write documents and play games. This power frees the projects from the burden of buying, maintaining and updating their own computing resources and it continually increases as technology improves and as more volunteers join the projects. This power allows the project owners to focus all of their resources and efforts on their research so they can achieve results sooner. This power from the people is a powerful thing!