Here is something I've wondered about since I was an undergraduate. Let $R$ be a ring (commutative, let's say, although the generalization to noncommutative rings is obvious). Ideals of $R$ can be multiplied and can be added (the ideal $I+J$ is the ideal generated by $I$ and $J$), and multiplication distributes over addition. Therefore we can consider the semiring $S$ of ideals of $R$. The question is, does the structure of $S$ tell us anything interesting about the structure of $R$? Or vice versa?
I asked this question on sci.math.research last year and got a few replies but nothing very substantive.
For a more concrete question: Give an interesting sufficient condition for $S$ to be finitely generated. Conversely, if $S$ is finitely generated, does that imply anything interesting about $R$?