& cplSiteName &

Happy Birthday, Einstein@Home

Baruch Sterman
8/14/2015
50%
50%

A short while back, an email showed up in my inbox, sent to an old and long-forgotten address. The subject line was "Einstein@Home Newsletter." That was a project originally launched ten years ago, and the administrators wanted to commemorate the anniversary with a thank you note to those who had been part of it -- a nostalgic nod to a pretty awesome bit of technology and a milestone in computing history.

Einstein@Home was meant to search for anomalies in space, like pulsars and other exotic astronomical phenomena. It was a project that required vast computing power -- in this case, to scour a myriad of images in the sky in a range of wavelengths and to identify slight variations in star brightness over time. Aside from the noble goals of the project, what was really exciting was that it was built with a distributed algorithm, using volunteers who donated their computer idle time to carry out complex computing. Anyone with an Internet connection could download a program that would run in the background and communicate with a server to get data and instructions, process tasks and report the results back.

Ten years on, there are more than 300,000 volunteers running Einstein@Home from over 220 countries, representing a whopping 1,000 petaflops of computing power -- that would rank in the top 20 list of the world's most powerful supercomputers.

The project has generated numerous papers and was instrumental in the discovery of a number of radio-wave pulsars and other curious space objects. Einstein@Home is now also analyzing Gravitational Wave data. But the scientific value of the project is not what struck me as I thought back over the ten years of donating my CPU to science. What came to mind, rather, was the pivotal part that this technology played in the history of computing and the far-reaching social and economic disruption it facilitated.

Distributed computing has been around since the 1970s. As the Internet evolved, by the late 1990s, it was applied to connected, always-on, personal computers. One of the first projects that used this wide-scale communication and sharing technology was Seti@Home, a project out of Berkeley that analyzed the data from huge arrays of radio telescopes to search for signs of extraterrestrial life. Advances in distributed processing and shared computing led to improvements in two closely related, subsidiary technologies: Peer-to-Peer Computing and Distributed File Sharing.

When Napster burst onto the online scene in 1999, it was one of the first commercial applications to take advantage of those technologies. Though it only lasted two years, Napster and the music sharing culture that it spawned set in motion incredibly disruptive changes in the way people consumed entertainment, and put us on a path that ultimately led to things like BitTorrent, Hulu and Netflix.

Napster was eventually shut down as a result of legal action taken against it for copyright infringement by the recording industry. But even as Napster pulled the plug on its servers, another company stood poised to take its place at the vanguard of the file-sharing universe. KaZaA, out of Estonia, relied more heavily on Peer-to-Peer and de-centralization of content and didn't face the same challenges as Napster. That program was wildly successful with more than 4 million active users and an install base numbering orders of magnitude above that.

On the auspicious day of August 29, 2003, every KaZaA user woke to find that another program had automatically downloaded and installed itself. The program allowed communication using a technology called Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP). It was based on essentially the same Peer-to-Peer discovery mechanism as KaZaA, and purportedly allowed any user to talk to any other user, anywhere in the world, for free. And the rest, as they say, is history.

By piggy-backing off of KaZaA's existing user base, VoIP was able to overcome the huge barrier of the Network Effect -- a term from economics that describes a service whose value is dependent on the number of subscribers using it. From day one, the install base was large enough for people to see the benefit in using it, and though the technology had been around for almost a decade, no commercial program had garnered any substantial success. Competitors not only had to contend with the ubiquitous distribution of KaZaA software, but also with the radical business model offering communication for free.

The avant-garde programmers at Berkeley, the intrepid researchers looking for radio signals from ET, the astronomers, biologists and chemists who used and improved distributed computing through volunteer CPU donors to carry out their work, could never have known that their efforts would eventually lead to extraordinary changes in society, economics and even geo-politics.

Peer-to-peer, file sharing, VoIP, social networking -- these technologies have led to a world of connected communication, on-demand entertainment, and content and data sharing and collaboration. As Bilbo once told Frodo of the Shire, "It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."

Happy Tenth Birthday, Einstein@Home.

— Baruch Sterman, Vice President of Technology Research, Vonage

(2)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Kruz
50%
50%
Kruz,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/20/2015 | 11:55:11 AM
Re: What would the future look like?
This nice project made our owner pc act as a distributed processing cloud in times where cloud wasnt even a concept, and all this for a good cause. This was truely innovative and I am happy I was part of it.
nasimson
50%
50%
nasimson,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/17/2015 | 8:27:05 PM
What would the future look like?
Thank you Sterman. You've beautifully connected our past with our present. But what about the future? Where all these technologies are leading us to?
More Blogs from Column
The technical challenges of going wireless aren't small.
As new ambitions demand next-gen support, IBB has identified three primary ways that CSPs can upgrade their OSS/BSS systems to deliver that support.
To succeed at virtualization, operators need to realize that standards bodies, open source initiatives and vendor ecosystems aren't going to help.
MANO in the NFV space will be put through its paces at Light Reading's fourth annual Big Communications Event in Austin next month.
Take control of your career and confront stereotypes, overcome biases and achieve the full measure of success to which your talent, hard work and ambition entitle you.
From The Founder
Either we perform a complete 'factory reset' on the way the telecom industry creates and deploys virtualization, or we face the consequences.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Custom TV
The Urgency of Commercial 5G Services

4|26|17   |     |   (0) comments


The progress of 5G has been closely monitored in the industry. At the 2017 Brooklyn 5G Summit, the sense of urgency for a commercial 5G launch had started to surface among operators.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
How Diversity Helps Comcast Mirror Its Customer Base

4|26|17   |   2:55   |   (0) comments


Diversity brings innovation, creative ideas and a way to reflect the broad spectrum of your customer base, Comcast Director of Customer Experience Jenelle Champlin says.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Mobile Operators & Video

4|25|17   |     |   (0) comments


Ovum's Ed Barton discusses the latest mobile operator strategies for mobile video.
LRTV Custom TV
Infinera Introduces Instant Network

4|20|17   |     |   (1) comment


Mike Capuano, vice president of marketing at Infinera, discusses the advancement from Instant Bandwidth to new Instant Network capabilities, which include Bandwidth License Pools, Moveable Licenses and Automated Capacity Engineering (ACE).
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Vodafone's Eubank on Sponsors, Mentors & Moving On Up

4|19|17   |   4:25   |   (0) comments


Vodafone America's Head of Operations Kimberly Eubank breaks down the difference between a sponsor and a mentor and shares why both made a big difference in her career.
LRTV Custom TV
NYC Auto Show: Are We Smart Yet?

4|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


The auto industry is facing some big transformations as electric vehicles, autonomous technology and connected cars are seen as the future of the industry. During the much-anticipated NY international auto show, there was an emergence of new technology and mobility service on the show floor. Aside from performance, brands like Lincoln, Hyundai, Honda, Mercedes and ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
The Impact of Video

4|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


David Mercer from Strategy Analytics discusses the impact of video on current strategies.
LRTV Custom TV
Pardeep Kohli Discusses Network Transformation & the Market Opportunity for the 'New' Mavenir Systems

4|13|17   |     |   (0) comments


In a brief discussion at MWC 2017, Heavy Reading analyst Adi Kishore talks to Pardeep Kohli, CEO, Mavenir Systems about the creation of the 'new Mavenir' and some of the key challenges facing operators in today's market. A key theme of the discussion centers around operator need for software-only, virtualized solutions and how they will need to adapt to ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Tech Maverick Shares Her Tips for Gender Inclusivity

4|12|17   |   7:28   |   (0) comments


Wendy Hall Bohling, a corporate escapee, author and gender exclusivity consultant, tells her story of sexism, bias and progress along the road to gender equality in the workforce.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei at MWC 2017

4|11|17   |     |   (0) comments


At Mobile World Congress 2017, the biggest mobile industry gathering of the year, Huawei showcased its new innovations and solutions with the theme "Open Road," which focuses on cloud, 5G, operation transformation, videos and consumer-oriented products. Its campaign has been recognized by three awards given by GSMA.
LRTV Custom TV
China Telecom NFV Infrastructure on RSD

4|6|17   |     |   (0) comments


Lynn Comp, senior director of market development of Intel, is joined by Chong Zhang, storage engineer at Inspur and Ou Li Yan, architect for technology strategies of China Telecom, for a discussion of what NFV brings.
LRTV Custom TV
Nokia's IMPACT Software Demo

4|6|17   |     |   (0) comments


Khamis Abulgubein of IoT market development at Nokia demonstrates IMPACT (intelligent management platform for all connected things), a software solution with a horizontal approach to managing any device on any application.
Upcoming Live Events
May 15-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
May 15, 2017, Brazos Hall - Austin, TX
May 15, 2017, Austin Convention Center - Austin, TX
June 6, 2017, The Joule Hotel, Dallas, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
Surprise! AT&T Markets 4G Advances as '5G Evolution'
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 4/25/2017
Did Verizon Outbid AT&T for Straight Path?
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 4/25/2017
Netflix Set to Enter China
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 4/25/2017
First Year TIPs the Scale Toward Success
Denise Culver, 4/24/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
One of the nice bits of my job (other than the teeny tiny salary, obviously) is that I get to pick and choose who I interview for this slot on the Light Reading home ...
TEOCO Founder and CEO Atul Jain talks to Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the challenges around cost control and service monetization in the mobile and IoT sectors.
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.