Join Rackspace in the fight against COVID-19 with BOINC

Wherever you live in the world, you have probably been impacted by COVID-19, either by social distancing, quarantines, or even just trying to find groceries at your local market. You might wonder what you can do to help in the fight against COVID-19.

A few projects currently leverage unused CPU or GPU computing power in computer systems to enable researchers to continue in their efforts to understand the Coronavirus, as well as other diseases.

One of these projects is the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing’s (BOINC) Rosetta@home project. The project relies on donated CPU and GPU time to help to determine 3-dimensional shapes of proteins in research that may ultimately lead to finding cures for some major human diseases. By running the Rosetta program on your computer when you are not using your computer, you help them speed up and extend their research in ways they could not take advantage of without your help.

Get started

You can download the client to use the client from a user interface, but in this blog post, I show you how to use Docker® to run the client in headless mode.

Use the following steps to get started in headless mode:

  1. Create a BOINC user account by using the following URL:

  1. After you create an account and log in, save your weak account key:

  1. Load the Docker container, as described in the next section.

Start the Docker container

We put together a BOINC Docker image based on Ubuntu 18.04, which is easy to load and run. The system uses GitHub actions to generate and push this Docker image to Docker hub.

To load the image, run the following command. Replace insert_insecure_key_here with the account key that you saved previously:

docker run -ti -d --name boinc \
-e "boincurl=" \
-e "boinckey=insert_insecure_key_here" antonym/boinc

These commands start the BOINC client. The BOINC client links the system to your account, retrieves chunks of work, processes them, and uploads the results to the project.

NOTE: This is a CPU intensive process that spins up on all available CPUs. You can watch the CPUs by using the htop tool. You probably should not run this on a production machine.

Monitor BOINC processes

To watch the logs from the BOINC client:

docker logs boinc -f

To stop the container:

docker stop boinc

To restart the container and resume previous jobs:

docker start boinc

Join the Rackspace BOINC team

Rackspace has also set up a BOINC team, so feel free to join us so we can track our team’s efforts.

You can see how we’re doing here.

Other distributed compute resources

The following list shows other projects that either currently have COVID-19 programs or are working on developing them:

We encourage you to check them all out, and if you have access to a lab or spare computing, help join the effort to fight disease!

Use the Feedback tab to make any comments or ask questions.

post avatar
Antony Messerli

Antony Messerli is a Principal Engineer at Rackspace who heads up the Global Infrastructure Engineering team responsible for hardware development and engineering. He is a 17 year Racker with a background in hardware development, software engineering, and building large scale IaaS clouds.

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