Any time a system allows one computer access to another computer's resources, questions come up about safety and privacy. What stops the program's administrators from snooping around a particular user's computer? If the administrators can tap into CPU power, can they also access files and sensitive data?
The simple answer to this question is that it depends on the software the participating computer has to install to be part of the system. Everything a shared computing system can do with an individual computer depends upon that software application. Most of the time, the software doesn't allow anyone direct access to the contents on the host computer. Everything is automated, and only the CPU's processing power is accessible.
There are exceptions, though. A zombie computer system or botnet is an example of a malicious shared computing system. Headed by a hacker, a zombie computer system turns innocent computer owners into victims. First, the victim must install specific software on his or her computer before a hacker can access it. Usually, such a software application is disguised as a harmless program. Once installed, the hacker can access the victim's computer to perform malicious tasks like a direct denial of service (DDoS) attack or send out massive amounts of spam. A botnet can span hundreds or thousands of computers, all without the victims being aware of what's going on.
Shared computing systems also need a plan in place for the times when a particular computer goes offline or otherwise becomes unavailable for an extended time. Most systems have a procedure in place that puts a time limit on each task. If the participant's computer doesn't complete the task in a certain amount of time, the control server will cancel that computer's task and assign the task to a new computer.
One criticism of shared computing is that while it capitalizes on idle processors, it increases power consumption and heat output. As computers use more of their processing power, they require more electricity. Some shared computing system administrators urge participants to leave their computers on all the time so that the system has constant access to resources. Sometimes a shared computing system initiative comes into conflict with green initiatives, which emphasize energy conservation.
Perhaps the biggest criticism of shared computing systems is that they aren't comprehensive enough. While they pool processing power resources together, they don't take advantage of other resources like storage. For that reason, many organizations are looking at implementing grid computing systems, which take advantage of more resources and allow a larger variety of applications to leverage networks.
Are shared computing systems the future, or will grid computing systems take their place? As both models become more commonplace, we'll see which system wins out. To learn more about shared computing and other topics, hop on over to the next page and follow the links.