Machine Design

A MIP is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Desktop computers are more powerful than mainframe computers of the 1970s but, most people only use them for email and word processing.

Julie Kalista
Online Editor

Purdue University has been able to double the output of nearly 5,000 of its computers by using a system that captures computer cycles when the computers aren't being used. The Purdue system includes the open source software Condor and the amount of computing done using it (shown in blue on the chart) equals or exceeds the work being done on the computers by their regular users.
Photo Credit: Ty Filby, Purdue University IT
Many corporations are use computing cycles or MIPS (million instructions per second) that are wasted all their PCs computers sit idle. Even at major research universities, computers are idle about half the time. There are even nights and weekend periods when the machines are available, yet no jobs running.

At Purdue University more than 4,300 computer of all sizes are linked together and if a computer becomes available, a waiting job is sent to it for processing. This lets the University maximize its resources and thus, eliminate the need for a super-computer. Jobs are usually pieces of a larger puzzle that idle computers work on and then feed the processed data back to a main computer that puts the information together.

Purdue uses a version of an open source application called Condor, developed for use by scientists and engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to link its computers. Some businesses are looking at the software to get more out of their computers. "On Wall Street, for example, how many calculations you get done in an eight-hour period can mean gigantic savings for the bank in real dollars," says Michael Ryan, chief IT technologist for JPMorgan.

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