In 1965, the developers of an operating system called Multics (Multiplexed Information and Computing Service, an ancestor of Unix) presented a vision of “computing as a utility,” which is similar to grid computing today, according to CERN’s GridCafi website.
The Birth of Grid
According to Grid.org, when computers were first linked by networks, the idea of harnessing unused CPU cycles was born. A few early experiments included a pair of programs called Creeper and Reaper that ran on the ARPAnet (the precursor to the Internet).
Scientists used grid computing to connect multiple workstations, which allowed them to work on complicated math problems and software compilations, utilizing idle CPUs to reduce processing times.
The Globus Alliance formed to conduct R&D for the technology, standards and systems that form the grid. Alliance members eventually produced open-source software that is central to nearly half a billion dollars’ worth of international science and engineering activities.
The First on the Net
Distributed.net became the first general-purpose grid-computing network on the Internet, according to Grid.org. Distributed.net eventually brought thousands of people together to crack cryptographic challenges in a distributed environment.
SETI, Phone Home
The SETI@home project launched at the University of California at Berkeley. It uses Internet-connected computers in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Anyone who has an Internet connection and some spare CPUs can participate by running a free program that analyzes radio telescope data. So far, more than 5 million people have signed up.
Launched in August by the National Science Foundation, the TeraGrid aims to build and deploy the world’s largest distributed infrastructure for open scientific research by linking major supercomputing sites such as the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Center for Advanced Computing Research at the California Institute of Technology.
SOURCES: CERN’s GridCafi; Grid.org; Globus Alliance; SETI@home; TeraGrid Project