Desktop Grid (phase 1)

Long Title: USI Desktop Grid (phase 1)
Universita della Svizzera Italiana
Domain: Grid
Status: finished
Start Date: 01.04.2008
End Date: 31.12.2008
Project Leader: C. Pautasso

USI Desktop Grid harnesses the collective power of existing available underutilized computational resources at USI and makes them available for users to run computationally intensive jobs. Necessary technical steps for an integration within the nationwide infrastructure were taken.

(see also phase 2)


The USI Desktop grid of 50 PCs is ready for use and tested. This number of integrated clients will be tripled during the second phase.
The documentation on how to submit jobs is available on the internal wiki pages of the Faculty of Informatics.


The goal of the USI Desktop Grid project is to improve the utilization of such resources by making them available to run computationally intensive jobs belonging to users from within USI.

The project will

  • evaluate different Desktop Grid middleware tools and environments (e.g., Condor, XTremeWeb-CH, BOINC, ...),
  • acquire the necessary skills (by collaboration with other institutions that already have similar Desktop Grid environments running − e.g., EPFL, UZH, UNIGE), and
  • setup and maintain the infrastructure on the existing available desktop machines present within a given institution.

The project team takes the necessary technical steps to ensure that the resulting desktop Grid will be easy to integrate within the nationwide infrastructure being constructed under the Swiss National Grid Association (SwiNG) umbrella.


The vision of a Desktop Grid is to harness the collective power of existing available underutilized computational resources within a certain institution. These resources are typically desktop PCs found in offices and student labs that therefore − unlike a dedicated cluster of computers - cannot be accessed exclusively but that at the same time are not fully utilized by their direct interactive users and have spare capacity that can be recycled and aggregated. In practice, at night and during weekends, these resources are left idle (if not even entirely switched off).
The project revolves around the following activities:

  1. Evaluate whether to continue the effort with the same (Condor), or to replace/deploy it in conjunction with other Desktop Grid middleware systems (e.g., XTremeWebCH developed at HES-SO).
  2. Planify, describe in which order a growing subset (up to 10%) of the existing desktop PCs found in the student labs at USI will be gradually pooled into the USI Desktop Grid. Establish evaluation criteria to choose whether an existing desktop PC is suitable to be pooled into the Grid.
  3. Acquire, install, configure, and maintain the server-side infrastructure to run the central scheduler and resource manager.
  4. Put the Desktop Grid in production (after initial testing) and open it to its users. An access control mechanism compatible with the existing authentication infrastructure will be put into place.
  5. Produce a documentation to train users on preparing jobs to be submitted to the Desktop Grid. Information to describe the characteristics of the pool of available resources will need to be kept up-to-date. This way, users will be able to evaluate the feasibility of running their scientific computing applications on the USI Desktop Grid.