Ever imagined creating a cluster of Pocket PCs to have a supercomputer processing power? That is what Spb Software House has done. Twelve Pocket PC devices have been joined in a cluster to perform distributed calculations - the devices share the load of a complex calculation. The concept was to compare the performance of several Pocket PC devices linked into a cluster with the performance of a typical Pentium II-class desktop computer.
They had no plans on using Pocket PCs for actual calculations; instead, they just wanted to see if it was possible to use Pocket PCs in distributed computing and measure the performance of the platform in this area.
"Why a cluster? It is obvious that a single Pocket PC device cannot be compared to a desktop PC since the latter was designed around the idea of being plugged into an electrical socket - power consumption is not an issue on a desktop PC. However, if we could unite a number of Pocket PC devices and make them act as a single computer, we could reach a certain level of performance, high enough to be compared to those of a "big" computer. Therefore, we have created a cluster of twelve Pocket PC devices."
The idea is quite simple: there are eleven Pocket PCs that act as nodes of the cluster, and these devices actually perform all the calculations. There is one additional device that is controlling the others, giving them small pieces of information to process, and collecting the results of each node's calculations. Our cluster was solving the "3n + 1" problem - it is a well-known mathematic problem that has not been solved yet. It is simple enough and very suitable for parallel calculations.
The Pocket PCs communicate with each other via IrDA using built-in infrared ports. Of course, communication via infrared is quite slow, but the problem to be "solved" did not require much communication between the nodes and the controlling Pocket PC. Bluetooth or TCP/IP communications could be have used instead, but every Pocket PC has an infrared port and it makes things easier without involving additional hardware or configuration.
It turns out that even a small cluster consisting of twelve nodes is still slower than a mainstream Pentium II-class desktop PC. However, the performance of Pocket PC devices is quite enough to deal with simple problems and their most important benefit is mobility. This makes Pocket PC platform very promising if used in distributed systems dealing with such problems as positioning and measurement.
However, stellar performance is not the point that one can expect from a distributed system based on Pocket PC devices.