Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

Turning an entire paradigm on its head, an international group of researchers has figured out how to implement cloud computing’s most widely-used algorithm, one that’s usually deployed in giant, hugely-powerful server farms, on a couple of dozen cell phones.

The entire point of cloud computing is that offloading processor-intensive tasks from a local client - a PC or a cell phone - gives our puny local computing resources the ability to leverage hundreds of remote servers tucked away in an anonymous data center to, for example, return search results scoured from every site on the internet in something less than a half a second.

So it might seem strange that so much effort would be devoted to creating Misco, a version of MapReduce that can be handled by a “server farm” comprised of 20-odd Nokia N95 smartphones. (MapReduce was invented by Google but is now used by Yahoo, IBM, Amazon, Facebook and even has an open-source implementation called Hadoop - in a nutshell, it’s what makes the blinding speed of the response time to your web browser’s requests possible.)

The point of this exercise is to create a system that allows the MapReduce magic of distributed processing of large amounts of data to happen closer to the data itself. By eliminating the need to first transmit the data over a relatively slow wireless network, it can, in some situations, be processed even faster than if it were first uploaded, in total, to a remote server. This, despite the fact that the remote server would be much faster than the processor on any one phone.

One of the challenges of implementing MapReduce on cell phones is that in a regular server farm, the failure rate is pretty low, and the latency of a signal transmitted between any one server (node) and another is also relatively low. Not so on cell phones. This means that, among other things, as the failure rate of any one “node” in the system increases (i.e., the phone is out of range, out of commission, etc.) the speed of the Misco processing network degrades exponentially.

Even so, Misco is a pretty neat hack. A hack in search of applications, granted, but this, the researchers claim, is only the beginning.

Follow Mims on Twitter or contact him via email.

2 comments. Share your thoughts »

Tagged: Web, Google

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me