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Research projects in many fields are increasingly reliant on the use of computer-based simulation and computing grids. Many projects have successfully leveraged voluntary computing infrastructures by developing and distributing "@home" applications using the BOINC framework. Through generous contributions from the general public, these systems now have a computing backbone on which to have their data processed or simulations run. A shortcoming of such systems is that most users are often limited to contributing resources and few users are capable of developing or porting their own applications in order to use these resources. While many users are satisfied with receiving points (an intangible good) in return for their contribution, the need to port applications presents a barrier to entry to many other users who can potentially benefit from using the voluntary resources. In this paper, we describe enhancements made to the "grid appliance", a virtual machine based system which enables an execution environment in which users are given the opportunity to voluntarily share (providing and using) resources and run unmodified x86/Linux applications. Voluntary grids introduce a host of issues to tackle, most importantly getting users involved quickly. With that in mind, the grid appliance provides many tools for making a user-friendly environment for users, developers, and administrators. This paper summarizes the challenges of getting users involved, reducing the overhead for administrators, and describes the solutions used in the grid appliance.
Date of Conference: 14-18 April 2008