The Entropia Virtual Machine for Desktop Grids

Brad Calder, Andrew Chien, Ju Wang and Don Yang
October 28, 2003

Desktop distributed computing allows companies to exploit the idle cycles on pervasive desktop PC systems to increase the available computing power by orders of magnitude (10x - 1000x). Applications are submitted, distributed, and run on a grid of desktop PCs. Since the applications may be malformed, or malicious, the key challenges for a desktop grid are how to 1) control the distributed computing application's resource usage and behavior as it runs on the desktop PC, 2) provide protection for the distributed application's program and its data, and 3) provide a virtualized execution environment, decoupling correct application execution from desktop configuration heterogeneity. We describe the Entropia Virtual Machine, and the solutions it embodies for each of these challenges. We first outline the distinct requirements for a virtual machine in a desktop grid environment, which differ from web-based and hardware-level virtual machines. We then describe how the Entropia Virtual Machine (EVM) uses binary rewriting to solve these problems, guaranteeing the usability and protection of the desktop machine in the face of malicious or malformed application code. We also show that our approach provides security for the applications and their data. We detail how the virtual machine supports a virtualized execution environment. We present performance results for the EVM which show its performance overhead is modest, less than 6% for the applications studied.

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