March 23, 2020
Cloud providers are acting swiftly to contribute in the fight against COVID-19.
Amazon Web Services has pledged $20 million to support researchers and scientists developing diagnostics and testing for the novel coronavirus.
IBM on Sunday joined forces with the White House, Department of Energy, academia, the National Science Foundation, NASA, the top three cloud vendors and other entities to launch the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium.
Rescale, which moves legacy applications into the cloud, has enlisted Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure to immediately offer high-performance computing resources to teams creating tests and vaccines for COVID-19.
And Microsoft over the weekend said it is prioritizing Azure for first responder and critical government agency “unique needs.”
Constellation Research’s Doug Henschen
Each endeavor promises to go a long way toward combating an unprecedented global event. In fact, Constellation Research’s Doug Henschen called the supercomputing and accelerated vaccine research ventures, in particular, “the front lines of the war on the pandemic, and let’s all hope that it’s a battle soon won.”
With that in mind, here’s a look at the latest announcements from IBM, Rescale and Microsoft (click the link above to read more about AWS’ initiative). At the time of publication, Channel Futures was waiting to hear back from Dell Technologies Cloud and Oracle Cloud about any similar efforts.
IBM, HPCC Bring Supercomputing Power to Researchers
The IBM-led HPCC offers 16 supercomputing systems to researchers. Dario Gil, director of IBM Research, wrote in a blog that those platforms amount to more than 330 petaflops, 775,000 CPU cores and 34,000 GPUs — “and counting,” he said.
“How can supercomputers help us fight this virus?” Gil wrote. “These high-performance computing systems allow researchers to run very large numbers of calculations in epidemiology, bioinformatics and molecular modeling. These experiments would take years to complete if worked by hand, or months if handled on slower, traditional computing platforms.”
To that point, because the cloud brings supercomputing closer to people across the globe, scientists throughout the world can take advantage of the HPCC’s capabilities.
Daniel Newman, principal analyst at Futurum Research, called the formation of the HPCC “a no-brainer.”
“What this is really about is expediting the time to getting answers that may live within the massive volume of data that is being created as this pandemic spreads,” he wrote.
Newman added that while making such computing resources available is costly, “we are in a period where public and private sector need to collaborate like never before. …I’m happy to see these organizations stepping up and I remain hopeful that technology, health care and biotech companies can work together to bring short and midterm solutions to bring health to those that are sick as well as stability to the teetering markets and economy.”
IBM is evaluating proposals from researchers to determine where next to focus its supercomputing capacity.
Big Blue says its Summit supercomputer already has enabled the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee to screen 8,000 compounds to find the ones most likely to bind to the main “spike” protein of the novel coronavirus, rendering it unable to infect host cells.
“They were able to recommend the 77 promising small-molecule drug compounds that could now be experimentally tested,” said Gil. “This is the power of accelerating discovery through computation.”
Rescale, With Azure and Google Cloud, Goes After COVID-19
Meanwhile, Rescale Inc. is offering its platform, along with high-performance computing power from Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure, at no cost to …
… scientists working on COVID-19 test kits and vaccines.
Specifically, the cloud company is supporting computational methods that do the following:
Model COVID-19 outbreak scenarios with large-scale simulations to forecast spread and inform public health policies.
Accelerate development of COVID-19 test kits and a vaccine.
Identify genomic variants that predispose people to resistance or progression of COVID-19.
“Our goal is to provide scientists and researchers everything they need to run life sciences simulations, from simulation workflow automation to the underlying compute and storage resources, to accelerate a fast path to combating the disease,” Joris Poort, CEO of Rescale, wrote in a March 19 blog.
Greg Moore, corporate vice president of Microsoft Health, agreed.
Microsoft Health’s Greg Moore
“We’re inspired to team up with Rescale in the fight against time to help provide answers to address COVID-19,” he said. “We’re working together to accelerate the availability of Azure supercomputers in the cloud.”
Google Cloud’s Manvinder Singh, director of partnerships, said the company is “grateful” that Rescale is making its resources available to researchers. Rescale’s platform “can help accelerate key processes and enable stronger collaboration,” he said.
Microsoft Will Prioritize Azure Traffic If Needed
Microsoft says it will prioritize first responder, critical infrastructure and government agency cloud computing traffic in case of any capacity constraints. Its Teams platform encountered some glitches last week as companies throughout the world shifted suddenly to remote work.
“As companies operationalize to address new and unique challenges, we have mobilized our global response plan to help customers stay up and running during this critical time,” Microsoft wrote in its Azure blog on March 21. “We are actively monitoring performance and usage trends 24/7 to ensure we are optimizing our services for customers worldwide, while accommodating new demand.”
If consumption does result in service issues, Microsoft is prepared to redirect Azure’s computing resources.
“Top priority will be going to first responders, health and emergency management services, critical government infrastructure organizational use, and ensuring remote workers stay up and running with the core functionality of Teams,” Microsoft said. “We will also consider adjusting free offers, as necessary, to ensure support of existing customers.”
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