Over the years, there have been several community programs that were designed to help take the spare CPU cycles from your PCs or blade servers to build simulations or analyze data that scientists can use to find answers to challenging questions. One of my earliest experiences with these programs was SETI at Home. SETI@home is a scientific experiment, based at UC Berkeley, that uses Internet-connected computers in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). You can participate by running a free program that downloads and analyzes radio telescope data. In October of 2000, the Pande Laboratory at Sanford University created a distributed computing project, known as “Folding@home” that built upon the principles of the SETI at Home project but with this new project, they were focused on folding proteins. Over the years, they’ve expanded this to include biomedical problems like Cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease and most recently COVID-19.
To be honest, I didn’t know about Folding@home until one of my peers mentioned that Dell Technologies had a Folding@home team and he was participating. Many of my peers have legacy servers in their basement (yes, even some blade servers) so this was a great opportunity for them to help with COVID-19. Unfortunately, I don’t have a home lab full of blade servers – all I have is a Dell Inspiron 11 running an Intel Pentium CPU N3710. I’m pretty sure the Space Shuttle had a more powerful CPU than this Inspiron 11, but I went ahead and decided to download the Folding@home app and begin contributing to the Dell team.
Then, something magical happened. One of my peers mentioned that if you have a Gmail account, you get $300 of FREE Google Cloud. Wait, what? I’ve had a few Google Gmail accounts for over a decade so this is a perfect way for me to add more to the Folding@home project. I wasn’t familiar with Google Cloud so I decided to Google how to use Folding@home with Google Cloud. To my surprise, I found a video offering a step-by-step walk-through showing how to create a Windows 2019 virtual machine (VM) in Google Cloud with a NVIDIA T4 GPU. I’m only on day 2 of using this free resource, but it’s working. I’ve done about 100x more work in the Folding@home project with this VM in the past 24 hours. My concern, though, is that my $300 of credit is not going to last very long but we’ll see.
To use Folding@home in a free Google Cloud virtual machine,check out the video below. If you want to join the Dell Technologies Folding@home team, use Team # 1739. See how this team is doing at https://stats.foldingathome.org/team/1739 (you’ll find me listed as “KevinHouston”.)
Kevin Houston is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BladesMadeSimple.com. He has over 20 years of experience in the x86 server marketplace. Since 1997 Kevin has worked at several resellers in the Atlanta area, and has a vast array of competitive x86 server knowledge and certifications as well as an in-depth understanding of VMware and Citrix virtualization. Kevin has worked at Dell Technologies since August 2011 is a Principal Engineer and Chief Technical Server Architect supporting the Central Enterprise Region at Dell. He is also a CTO Ambassador in the Office of the CTO at Dell Technologies.
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