Peta-scale, the Holy Grail of high-performance computing, is now reality.
Sustained PetaFLOPS throughput was first achieved not by supercomputers, clusters, grids, or clouds, but by volunteers. This milestone was reached by Folding@home using 40,000 Sony PS3 game consoles, and more recently by BOINC using 600,000 general-purposes computers.
But the story doesn’t end there. Volunteer computing offers a plausible near-term path to the next multiple of 1000: Exa-scale. This path involves high-performance processors such as GPUs, Cells, and multi-core CPUs, and perhaps the slower but more energy-efficient processors in mobile devices and appliances.
Perhaps equally significantly, volunteer computing undermines the established mechanisms by which computational resources are divided among scientists. And, by involving the public in the scientific process, it promotes scientific awareness, interest, and knowledge.