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Wide area network (WAN)-based distributed computing (DC) has become an active field of research, especially under the label of grid computing. On the other hand, research on WAN-based real-time (RT) DC has remained in an embryonic stage. However, the situation is changing. The continuous increase in the availability of optical channels, called lambdas, along with a steady decrease of their costs, have given rise to efforts to establish an optical network infrastructure in which the possibility of dynamically allocating entire end-to-end light-paths to different message streams created by a moderate number of important applications is real. With such an infrastructure, there is no major obstacle to facilitating RT DC. The notion of RT distributed virtual computer (DVC), which can also be viewed as an RT sub-grid, is introduced. The challenging issues in adapting some promising technologies established for RT DC in LAN environments to enable realization of RT DVCs in WAN environments are then discussed. The programming model and resource management are the focus of the discussion.