General Questions


General Questions

  • What is The Lattice Project?
  • The Lattice Project is an effort by a community of scientists at the University of Maryland to develop and deploy a comprehensive grid system for scientific analysis. See our publications for more information.

  • When will The Lattice Project be completed?
  • As an ongoing research project, The Lattice Project will in many regards never be completed. However, its current state might be described as a production grid system in which features are continually being added, tested, and improved. Also, we continue to add and update scientific applications as grid services. We post news and announcements on the news page.

  • What is the main goal of The Lattice Project?
  • Scientific research can be greatly enhanced with access to high-performance computing resources. The computational environment in which many scientists work is substantively deficient, materially impeding progress in a number of fields. It is our goal to make sufficient computational and data resources available to an active community of scientific researchers.

  • Is there planned public participation?
  • People who want to contribute their computing resources can download a BOINC client that will retrieve work and run analyses on their PC. Like the traditional SETI@home project, we maintain the infrastructure for forming teams and receiving credit for completed work, and we also provide other community-building features. For more information on The Lattice BOINC Project, visit our project web site, boinc.umiacs.umd.edu.

  • I have participated in other distributed computing projects, but I am not familiar with some of the technologies used here. What is Globus?
  • Globus is a toolkit for developing computational grids. More information can be found on the Globus web site.

  • My organization would like to get involved in The Lattice Project. How may we do so?
  • Involvement could take many forms, and is described in more detail in our section on participating.

  • I am confused about the types of jobs that will run on The Lattice Project. Is there one well-defined scientific problem it is addressing?
  • The simple answer is no. The Lattice Project provides the framework for running many types of scientific applications as grid services. This is also true for jobs that get sent to BOINC clients. The Lattice "Project" that runs over BOINC is comprised of multiple applications. Predominantly, these applications address problems in bioinformatics, computational biology, and molecular evolution.


  • How is BOINC used in The Lattice Project?
  • The Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing, BOINC, is grid middleware for uniting individual computers--typically desktops--into a grid system. Recognizing the potential of desktop grid systems, we use BOINC to vastly increase our base of computational resources. A job submitted to the grid could be scheduled to run on our BOINC pool just as it could be scheduled to a more traditional computing resource, such as a dedicated cluster.

  • Why contribute to scientific research?
  • You can help scientists answer a variety of exciting questions! For example, if you run a phylogenetic analysis, you are helping to discover the evolutionary relationships of various organisms on earth.

  • How does BOINC use my computer?
  • BOINC uses your spare computing resources (CPU, memory, and disk). It is designed not to interfere with normal use of your computer. For more information about running a BOINC client, see the help section on the BOINC web site.

  • What kinds of jobs will the BOINC client run?
  • We maintain a list of our grid services and their compatibility with BOINC.

  • How does The Lattice Project compare to other BOINC-based distributed computing projects?
  • The use of BOINC in The Lattice Project differs from that in other projects in several ways. Most BOINC projects run a single application or class of applications, where each workunit is similar in the type of analysis performed, but differs in the specific data analyzed. The Lattice Project is a fully-featured grid computing system, so it performs scientific analyses for a wide variety of projects. It is also heterogeneous in the computing models and computing resources used. As mentioned elsewhere, in The Lattice Project, a BOINC pool (a collection of BOINC clients interacting with a BOINC server) is one of many resources to which specific analyses may be assigned. (Other resources include dedicated clusters and desktop machines federated with Condor software.)

    Given these characteristics of The Lattice Project and its use of BOINC, participants need to keep these differences in mind. Some specific characteristics to note are as follows:

    1. There will not always be workunits available.
    2. Workunits will vary greatly in characteristics such as the type of analysis being performed and time to completion.
    3. Some workunits will take a very long time (e.g., several days or more) to complete.
    4. Estimated time to completion, if given, is likely to be highly variable.
    5. Checkpointing is not available for some applications.
    6. Some workunits may be removed from the system for one reason or another. We maintain a list of such workunits.

    In all these ways, our use of BOINC differs from SETI@home and other projects. Consequently, expectations based on experience with BOINC from SETI@home and other projects will not always be in keeping with the experience of participating in the Lattice Project. This is one of the challenges we face as a community of research scientists and people generously working together to extend public-participation grid computing to a broader range of projects.

  • Are all of the projects that you run non-profit?
  • Yes, all of the analyses run on The Lattice Project are parts of academic research projects. Most of the research projects are funded by public agencies (e.g., in the United States by the National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Institutes of Health), and institutional funds (e.g., University of Maryland). The results of these studies are typically published.