Biological cells as cloud computing networks

Tom James @ 13-08-2009

webIn an interesting confluence of ideas, and of the unintentional biomimicry at work in cloud computing, researchers identify parallels between biological cells and computer networks:

Gene regulatory networks in cell nuclei are similar to cloud computing networks, such as Google or Yahoo!, researchers report today in the online journal Molecular Systems Biology. The similarity is that each system keeps working despite the failure of individual components, whether they are master genes or computer processors.

“It’s extremely rare in nature that a cell would lose both a master gene and its backup, so for the most part cells are very robust machines,” said Anthony Gitter, a graduate student in Carnegie Mellon’s Computer Science Department and lead author of the Nature MSB article. “We now have reason to think of cells as robust computational devices, employing redundancy in the same way that enables large computing systems, such as Amazon, to keep operating despite the fact that servers routinely fail.”

It is fascinating how natural selection has already discovered many of the same processes used by human engineers.

[via Technut News, from ScienceDaily][image from Jus’ fi on flickr]

Combining computing servers with alternative energy

Tomas Martin @ 20-03-2008

Could servers only be used when the wind blows nearbyThe Guardian has this interesting snippet of an article that makes sense to me on so many levels. Professor Andy Hopper of the University of Cambridge has been looking at the power usage of computers and made an astute suggestion: locate large processing servers near sources of alternative energy like solar or wind farms. When the power is flowing through the turbine or photovoltaic, computers all around the world can tap into the processors of the server farm. When there’s no wind or sun in one location, the network can call on the processors of somewhere there is.

This kind of synergy is fascinating and I think it’ll be a major feature in our future working lives. Flash drives getting bigger, faster and cheaper all the time and programs like Portable Firefox run straight off a portable drive. I’m writing this post on my portable usb, using only the processor and screen of the laptop I’m borrowing time on. Sooner or later all our computers will be a usb-style stick with all our programs, data and settings stored on it. Plug it into a nearby screen (or project your own), whack out your laser keyboard and dial into any heavy processing power from an external server. Who needs a big computer tower in your room when you can fit it in your pocket?

[story via the Guardian, image by Brent Danley]