The White House's team recently added the world's fastest computer to its informal network of more than 40.
The worlds fastest supercomputer teamed up with the White Houses expanding supercomputing effort to fight the novelcoronavirus.
Japans Fugakuwhichsurpassedleading U.S. machines on the Top 500listof global supercomputers in late Junejoinedthe COVID-19 High Performance ComputingConsortium.
Jointlylaunchedby the Energy Department, Office of Science and Technology Policy and IBM in late March, the consortium currently facilitates more than 65 active researchprojectsand envelops a vast supercomputer-powered search for new findings pertaining to the novel coronavirus spread, how to effectively treat and mitigate it, and more. Dozens of national and internationalmembersare volunteering free compute time through the effort, providing at least 485 petaflops ofcapacityand steadily growing, to more rapidly generate new solutions againstCOVID-19.
What started as a simple concept has grown to span three continents with over 40 supercomputer providers, Dario Gil, director of IBM Research and consortium co-chair, toldNextgovlast week. In the face of a global pandemic like COVID-19, hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime event, the speed at which researchers can drive discovery is a critical factor in the search for a cure and it is essential that we combineforces.
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Gil and other members and researchers briefedNextgovon how the work is unfolding, how theyre measuring success and the research the consortium is increasinglyunderpinning.
Energys Office of Science Director Chris Fall toldNextgovlast week that since the consortiumsfounding, its resources have been used to sort through billions of molecules to identify promising compounds that can be manufactured quickly and tested for potency to target the novel coronavirus, produce large data sets to study variations in patient responses, perform airflow simulations on a new device that will allow doctors to use one ventilator to support multiple patientsand more. The complex systems are powering calculations, simulations and results in a matter of days that several scientists have noted would take a matter of months on traditionalcomputers.
From a small conversation three months ago, we overcame a myriad of institutional and organizational boundaries to establish the consortium, Fall said, adding that the effort is building an international team of COVID-19 researchers that are sharing their best ideas, methods and results to understand the virus and its effects on humans which will [allow] the world to ultimately conquer or confine thevirus.
In a recent interview, Energys Undersecretary for Science Paul Dabbarexplainedthat any researcher interested in tapping into advanced computing capabilities can submit relevant research proposals to the consortium through an onlineportalthatll then be reviewed for selection. An executive committee supports the groups organization and helps steer policies, while a science committee is tasked with evaluating research proposals submitted to the consortium for potential impact upon selection. And a third committee allocates the time and cycles on the supercomputing machines once theyrechosen.
Whats really interesting about this from an organizational point of view is that its basically a volunteer organization, Dabbarnoted.
As of July 1, the consortium had received more than 148 COVID-19 research proposals with 78 approved and 68 up and running via the involved supercomputing resources, Energy confirmed. Though researchers are tapping into the assets free of charge, the work doesnt come without cost. Dabbar said the consortium taps into some of the departments user facilities and resources that were built and funded by taxpayer dollars. The effort induces operating costs such as runtime, electricity and cooling for the machines, which Dabbar said are relatively minor compared to actually building the capacity to beginwith.
It does absolutely cost money, Dabbar said. But at the end of the day, a lot of this is taking advantage of what the American people invested in, and using the flexibility, and shifting it towards thisproblem.
The combined, supercomputing resources are speeding up the chase for answers and solutions against COVID-19, but that faster pace isnt the only metric for success. IBMs Gil said in the early days, the establishment of the consortium and the efficiency we have achieved in expedited expert review of proposals and rapid matching of approved proposals to supercomputing systems, along with rapid on-boarding onto those systems would have to be considered our first majorsuccess.
Those involved also measure success by the number of up-and-running research projects, and highlighted that 27 projects already have experimental, clinical or policy transition plans in place. Insiders also consider the fact that they were able to quickly bring together industry players, as Gil noted many of whom are competitors, labs, federal agencies, universities and several international partners to share their systems to be a majorachievement.
NASA is one consortium member thats been involved in the initiative from the very beginning when it was invited by OSTP, Piyush Mehrotra, chief of NASAs Advanced Supercomputing, or NAS Division toldNextgovThursday.
The division, at Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, hosts the space agencys supercomputers, which Mehrotra noted are typically used for large-scale simulations supporting NASAs aerospace, earth science, space science and space exploration missions. But, a selection of the agencys supercomputing assets are also reserved for national priorities that transcend beyond the agencysscope.
In order to understand COVID-19, and to develop treatments and vaccines, extensive research is required in complex areas such as epidemiology and molecular modelingresearch that can be significantly accelerated by supercomputing resources, Mehrotra explained. We are therefore making the full reserve portion of NASA supercomputing resources available to researchers working on the COVID-19 response, along with providing our expertise and support to port and run their applications on NASAsystems.
Amazon Web Services is another that joined among the consortiums first wave of members and participated in the initial roundtable discussion at the White House where the concept emerged in March. The companys Vice President of Public Policy Shannon Kellogg toldNextgovin late May that, in joining, AWS saw a clear opportunity to bring the benefits of cloud to bear in the race for treatments and a vaccine. The company has since provided cloud computing resources to more than a dozen of the consortiums active projects, and according to Kellogg, provides in-kind credits to the research teams, which provide them with cloud computing resources. The tech-giants team then communicates regularly with the researchers to help address technicalquestions.
This effort has shown how collaboration and commitment from leaders across government, business, and academia can empower researchers and accelerate the pace of their work, Kelloggsaid.
Outside of IBM, NASA and AWS, other early members of the consortium include Google Cloud, Microsoft, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the National Science Foundation, as well as Argonne, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Sandia National laboratories. And as the consortium progresses, its alsoexpandingalong the way. In April, the National Center for Atmospheric Researchs Wyoming Supercomputing Center, chipmaker AMD and graphics processing units-maker NVIDIA joined, amongothers.
Dell Technologies also began the process to participate in April, according to Janet Morss, senior consultant, high performance computing. It took about a month for the involvement to come into fruition and the company is now donating cycles from the Zenith supercomputer and otherresources.