• WisBusiness

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tom Still: Explosion in 'Big Data' prompting big possibilities for Wisconsin


By Tom Still
At Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, a supercomputer called Titan is quietly flexing its digital muscles. With a peak performance of 20 petaflops (more on that term in a moment), Titan is nearly 10 times more powerful than its predecessor and destined to become one of the U.S. scientific community's top computational tools.

It's also largely made in Wisconsin.

All of the nearly 19,000 compute nodes in Titan were designed and built by Cray Inc., the supercomputer company born in Chippewa Falls. Cray's team there and St. Paul, Minn., also designed and built software and other components that accelerate computing through a graphic processing unit from NVIDIA, a California-based leader in computer graphics.

The combination creates 20 petaflops of computing power, with one petaflop equaling 1,000 trillion calculations per second.

Who needs that kind of horsepower? The scientific world, which includes researchers who are designing and operating computer models for research on climate change, biofuels, astrophysics, nuclear energy, combustion, materials science and drug development, to name a few disciplines. Those computer models dramatically increase accuracy while taking valuable time out of the process of finding answers to global problems.

It's an example of the rise of "big data," a term that loosely describes society's ever-increasing thirst for data storage, high-speed computing and parallel programming, which allows non-related databases to interact in powerful ways.

Last week's launch of Titan at Oak Ridge illustrates how Wisconsin researchers and companies are linked to big data, either as providers of systems that implement its use or as end users. Other recent examples:

* The UW-Madison is working with the National Science Foundation and private partners to upgrade how the campus will handle its surge in big data – an effort that could become a model for others. Over the next two years, the campus will upgrade hardware, software and other resources to deal with big data research projects. Examples include neutrino particle detection through the IceCube Project at the South Pole, the collection of satellite weather data by the Space Science and Engineering Center, and the particle physics research conducted by UW scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

* Scientists at the Morgridge Institute for Research, Indiana University, the University of Illinois and the UW-Madison have received a $23.6-million grant to address threats arising from the development process of software used in technology ranging from the national power grid to medical devices. Called the Software Assurance Marketplace, the effort will include the ability to continuously test up to 100 open-source software packages and analyze more than 275 million lines of code per day.

* The non-profit Milwaukee Institute is helping to build a regional cyberstructure in southeast Wisconsin to assist research universities and other institutions meet their needs for high-performance computing.

* Wisconsin-based companies such as TDS, which owns Vital Support Systems (formerly TEAM Companies) continue to build and fill data centers in Wisconsin and Iowa, in part because both states are geologically stable and shielded from traumatic weather events such as "Superstorm Sandy" that crippled the East Coast. Such centers are primary storehouses for digital data as well as important backups.

* In addition to the Titan project, Cray is working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Defense, Sandia National Laboratory and the United Kingdom's equivalent of the U.S. National Science Foundation. It is also part of the National Center for Supercomputing Application's "Blue Waters Project," a supercomputer that is expected to be among the most powerful in the world when launched on the University of Illinois campus next year.

From gaming to genomics, and from physics to meteorology, the world's use of digital data is growing geometrically. Wisconsin researchers and companies are a part of keeping pace with big data, which offers new tools for solving some of the world's most pressing problems.

-- Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal.

Labels:


Comments: 0

Post a Comment

Back to BizOpinion main page

: See newer blog items : : See older blog items :

BizOpinion site feed
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

wisbusiness.com Social News

Follow Us

Site Sponsors

ARCHIVE

· January 2009
· February 2009
· March 2009
· April 2009
· May 2009
· June 2009
· July 2009
· August 2009
· September 2009
· October 2009
· November 2009
· December 2009
· January 2010
· February 2010
· March 2010
· April 2010
· May 2010
· June 2010
· July 2010
· August 2010
· September 2010
· October 2010
· November 2010
· December 2010
· January 2011
· February 2011
· March 2011
· April 2011
· May 2011
· June 2011
· July 2011
· August 2011
· September 2011
· October 2011
· November 2011
· December 2011
· January 2012
· February 2012
· March 2012
· April 2012
· May 2012
· June 2012
· July 2012
· August 2012
· September 2012
· October 2012
· November 2012
· December 2012
· January 2013
· February 2013
· March 2013
· April 2013
· May 2013
· June 2013
· July 2013
· August 2013
· September 2013
· October 2013
· November 2013
· December 2013
· January 2014
· February 2014
· March 2014
· April 2014
· May 2014
· June 2014
· July 2014
· August 2014
· September 2014
· October 2014
· November 2014
· December 2014
· January 2015
· February 2015
· March 2015
· April 2015
· May 2015
· June 2015
· July 2015
· August 2015
· September 2015
· October 2015
· November 2015
· December 2015
· January 2016
· February 2016
· March 2016
· April 2016
· May 2016
· July 2016
· August 2016
· October 2016
· December 2016
Copyright ©2013 WisBusiness.com All rights reserved. | WisOpinion.com | WisPolitics.com  |  Website development by wisnet.com LLC  | Website design by Makin’ Hey Communications