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The linked computers can be used for a kind of distributed storage system (like GFS). Say each user shares an amount of storage resources and can use a specific amount of storage of the system. If the users are willing to accept such a deal, you can reduce the cost of your own storage resources. A major problem of course is the reliability of the system.



There's a recent research project called Farsite which tries to answer these questions.

http://research.microsoft.com/~adya/pubs/osdi2002.pdf




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