Distributed computing on the net is accelerating research into marsenne prime numbers, cancer research, and the search for extra terrestrials. Users run software on their home machines that contact the host organization for data to process. So far, this work has all primarily been volunteer work (read:
How's this for a preliminary stab at a distributed computing organization business model.:
Each computing unit (whatever size) is allocated a price based on demand. You can use the units at the given price, or you can generate the computing units (have other peoples jobs run on your machine) at $0.50 on the dollar. Your account is tracked/stored with the organization.
The benefits are as follows:
-Your spare computing units are automatically contracted out at a competitive price. You can (arguably) make money doing it with all those spare computers laying about.
-You can stockpile computing units to be used later in your research. (Make your computer work for you even while in the reading phase).
-If you have a project where you need units, but don't have time to contribute, you can simply buy the distributed processing time.
-You could enhance your effective computing time by contributing at peak times (when the price is highest) and processing at off peak times (when the price is lowest). You will effectively have improved your computer.