The Digital Media Project



Philip Merrill


DEU #17 Distributed computing




Philip Merrill

Affiliation/additional information:

Active Contributor, Pasadena, California, US

Date submitted:

2004/04/29; 2004/05/18 1st revision






Name of DEU

Distributed computing


Summary description of DEU

A parallel or networked use of computer processing power such that extensive calculations are performed away from the End-User's computing device, allowing demanding tasks to be broken up into small parts that can run almost unnoticed on an End-User's machine in the background, distinct from and invisible to the tasks the End-User directs. Depending on the calculations desired and the computer processing power available, such tasks can also be completed by a "render farm" providing processing as a utility service. Suitable for rendering of textured animations. [written @ GA02]


Example usages of DEU

"Grid computing" or the distributed computing of processing calculations (considered a form of P2P) is an emerging paradigm. Although mostly used for parallel supercomputing of scientific puzzles that require extensive number-crunching, it holds potential to provide moderately powerful (e.g., DMP PAV) IT devices with potentially extraordinary amounts of available processing power.

A notable article appeared in Nature 7 December 2000 [1] by Ian Foster [2], reviewing parallel projects such as Entropia and SETI, with an emphasis of the author's Globus Alliance [3]. Although efforts to make money based on distributed computer processing have mostly failed to bear fruit so far, many are convinced that untethered processing, or "utility computing" where processing power is provided "on tap" [4] will generate countless business models in the world to come, once it has manifested as a more common reality. This is important for IED/IED-s because a new device standard could establish a superparallel grid in which every device cost several dollars more to manufacture but had practically limitless RAM!


TRUs related to this DEU

Primarily supports:
05 TRU to make playback device
14 TRU to edit for personal use
26 TRU to transcode
61 TRU of communication to the public
63 TRU to distribute lower-resolution copies only
64 TRU to compel real-time only consumption
66 TRU to restrict time of use
67 TRU to make content creation device
70 TRU to run applications of ones choice
74 TRU to improve end-user experience
82 TRU adaptation

Could be used to support:
01 TRU to quote
10 TRU to use content anonymously
77 TRU to restrict performance
85 TRU to syndication
87 TRU to determine context of use
88 TRU to make a print of a video scene (repurposing)


Enabling technologies

The growing experimentation with the P2P paradigm includes an upward trend of use for distributed computing. Technology providers include HP [5], IBM [6], Oracle [7], and Sun [8]; note the Y2004 Sponsor Members of [9] which include NASA, Intel, Microsoft, Cisco, and Grid Consortium Japan. News of new enabling technologies in this area is lively enough to have a Jupitermedia trade zine dedicated to the subject [10].


Benefits of DEU

When this DEU was proposed 27 April 2004 at TRU WS, Leonardo expressed reservations whether it had any bearing on digital media devices. There was sufficient support for the idea that this could lead to new things and especially be useful for rendering visual information in games so that Leonardo somewhat gudgingly added it to the list of DEUs. The reasoning behind his reservations should be kept in mind. An IED equipped with grid access could provide an excellent portable bioinformatic device, however that is surely distinct from mainstream consumer media use.



DMP DRM shall support access by appropriately designed devices to distributed computing grids for large data processing and rendering tasks.



[4] "Computing power on tap", The Economist, 21 June 2001