Distributed computing isn’t new but more people are relying on this concept to increase research computing horsepower. Distributed computing works like this: A central computer is connected to many other “worker bee” computers called nodes. These worker bee computers, more and more, are your desktop computer. During times of low activity such as at night and during the day while the user is at work this central computer sends small computing activities to the computer nodes. The object of distributed computing is to have as many nodes as possible so each computer does small amounts of work but the overall effect is a huge supercomputer.
Many researchers are using distributed computing for health research, climate change research and even the search for extra-terrestrial communications! The benefit of distributed computing can be magnificent. In some cases the computing power of a distributed network can be hundreds of times more powerful than the computing power a researcher would otherwise. This can cut time consuming and expensive computer modeling time from years to days.
For a list of some of the distributed networks visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_distributed_computing_projects.