Long-shot distributed data center project in Canada like SETI for mobile

A California company has an ambitious plan to capitalize on all the idle compute cores in the small Canadian city of Stratford, Ontario, and make them work together as a distributed data center, according to an article that appeared Thursday on VentureBeat.

The concept of distributed computing is not new. People in computer science circles have discussed it for decades. Implementations include [email protected] for medical research and [email protected] for discovering aliens. More recently, a Texas company came up with a way to harness compute power when gamers play certain games and pay users for compute cycles.

Still, if the project goes off without a hitch and spans not just personal computers but other connected devices as well, it would be an impressive feat. Success could cause people to rethink how, when and where data can be processed. It could even disrupt the data center construction industry. For now, though, some technical hurdles could lie ahead.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., company behind the project, LeoNovus, envisions using the “dark cores” to form what it calls SMART Networks in press releases. To do so, LeoNovus is employing technology licensed from a company THAT LeoNovus’ CEO, Gordon Campbell, is involved in, Sviral, according to the VentureBeat article.

In Stratford, deployment began this week and should go across the entire network over the next few months. To sweeten the deal for consumers at home who might be reluctant to relinquish their dormant compute power, LeoNovus might give everyone a laptop and free internet access.

The LeoNovus project aims to provide more power by letting end users of all sorts of devices with compute cores give up their compute cycles. Presumably, enterprises could find value in the resources if it can become available. But implementation could be a bumpy road.

Different cores have different architectures and might not be able to easily work together. Uniting the compute power with a customer’s storage could take longer than it might in a more traditional data-center setting. There would be an abundance of compute power to use, but moving to use fewer cores or none at all might not be as straightforward for a customer as on, say, Amazon (s amzn) Web Services. And the business model cited in the article — the part about giving away computers and internet access — might not be the best way for LeoNovus to generate enough revenue to build out more SMART networks.

If the project works, LeoNovus could become a household name, and Stratford could become as widely known as data-center cities such as Prineville, Ore., and Quincy, Wash. And if it flops, well, it will keep being Stratford, just another corner of the world that dreams of becoming a tech hub.