Folding@Home is now the world's largest supercomputer

Written by Jennifer Allen

March 24, 2020 | 11:00

Tags: #coronavirus #covid-19 #distributed-computing

Companies: #foldinghome

Folding@Home has announced it is now the world's largest supercomputer, thanks to the efforts of thousands devoting their spare cycles to tackling Coronavirus/COVID-19.

Earlier this month, the distributed computing project updated to start work on understanding the structures of potential drug targets for tackling the virus that's sparked a global pandemic, in a bid to speed up progress. At the time, the site started by Stanford University, explained 'data you help us generate will be quickly and openly disseminated as part of an open science collaboration of multiple laboratories around the world, giving researchers new tools that may unlock new opportunities for developing lifesaving drugs.'

Since then, the project has seen a 1,200 percent increase in the number of users with over 400,000 people joining. It means the total number of CPU/GPU cores being used is 27,433,824. The figure gets even more impressive when you consider that combined, that means a peak compute power of 470 petaFLOPs which is more than double the amount that the world's current supercomputing record holder, the Summit supercomputer, is able to achieve. 

Effectively, Folding@Home is providing more computing power than the world's top 7 supercomputers combined. Those are rather staggeringly vast numbers, we're sure you'll agree. 

The sheer level of demand is actually at the point where Folding@Home is struggling to keep up with generating COVID-19 related work units with some work units for other diseases being sent out to users. The project had to issue a recent statement to remind users that it also works on understanding things such as forms of cancer, Alzheimer's, Huntingdon's Disease, and Parkinson's Disease, as well as COVID-19. 

These are clearly tough times for all of us, but it's nice to see a little glimmer of humanity amongst the toilet roll hoarding, and general worrying. If you've yet to sign up to Folding@Home, there really isn't a better time than now. It takes seconds and makes you feel a little less useless in a complicated world. 

You also get to feel a tiny part of things like this - a glimpse at the COVID-19 spike protein, formulated via Folding@Home efforts. 

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