A Force for Good: VMware Appliance for Folding@Home

At VMware, our EPIC2 values are a core component of who we are. We manifest our values in all aspects of our work and through being a Force for Good in our communities. When I initially read an article about Folding@Home and the project’s impact in helping researchers find treatments for diseases such as Coronavirus, Cancer, Alzheimer’s, and more, I knew that I had to contribute to the project! To quote foldingathome.org:

The Folding@home project (FAH) is dedicated to understanding protein folding, the diseases that result from protein misfolding and aggregation, and novel computational ways to develop new drugs in general.

After downloading and installing the FAHClient on my home computer, I thought about the vast amount of idle GPU and CPU resources across the globe. I knew that individuals and companies could donate these unused resources to Folding@Home.

I setup my Folding@Home client to report all completed Working Units for Team VMware. After a few tweets to the vCommunity and vExperts, Team VMware quickly had many contributors running Folding@Home on their personal machines on a Sunday afternoon! By Sunday night, VMware employees were identifying idle resources in our labs and data centers and deploying the clients by Virtual Machines and Containers to battle the Coronavirus.

Less than two days after my machine uploaded its first Working Unit to Folding@Home, we had over 200 people donating their GPU and CPU resources to science. As more folks became interested in Folding@Home, William Lam saw an opportunity to create a VMware Virtual Appliance for the Folding@Home client to give all FAH donors a seamless deployment experience for the vSphere environments.

When William announced his VMware appliance idea, many employees immediately joined the Slack channel to help test, document, and automate the VMware Appliance for Folding@Home. In parallel to the team working on the Appliance, John Dias and Sunny Dua created a vRealize Operations dashboard to query the Folding@Home APIs and report on Team VMware’s statistics. The dashboard is available on John’s Github site for all to download and deploy in your own environment. The dashboard updates when the Folding@Home API is online and available.

As the VMware Appliance for Folding@Home development was nearing completion, I contacted the Folding@Home organization to request permission to distribute the Folding@Home software. Dr. Greg Bowman, Director of Folding@Home, quickly responded with his approval for VMware to host and distribute the VMware Appliance for Folding@Home!

I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to everyone at VMware who invested many hours in design, creation, testing, documentation (led by Dean Lewis), legal reviews, blogging, hosting, security reviews, and other work that is required for a successful product release. All of this was accomplished within a 72-hour period! This is a difficult time for many around the world, and to see VMware employees pull together as a true Force for Good is extremely powerful and humbling. I am honored to be a part of VMware.

Thank you to everyone that is already running the Folding@Home software and donating to science. Team VMware’s Working Units and points have improved our rank by over 1000 positions in only a few days. The vCommunity’s passion for Folding@Home is inspiring! We appreciate you being a part of Team VMware and a Force for Good.

We hope you are inspired to deploy the VMware Appliance for Folding@Home to as many hosts as you are able to donate. Mike McDonnell has published code to automate the Fling deployment through PowerCLI, and it is available on his Github site.  Each completed Working Unit helps everyone on the planet. No environment is too small!