April/May 2009

FEATURE

The value of pre-validated LIMS

For highly-regulated environments such as the pharmaceutical industry, for example, purchasing a piece of software is only the first step in a process that involves hard work and high costs before it can be truly integrated into a company’s workflow. This is known as ‘validation’.

The validation process involves several stages, starting with an outline of user requirements and a function and design specification, through to a review of the installation, an operational test of the system, and finally a performance evaluation.

FEATURE

Dedicated to science

As a major gateway for scientific discovery, the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) at Argonne National Laboratory partners with the world’s best computational scientists to advance research in a diverse span of scientific domains, ranging from chemistry, applied mathematics and materials science to engineering, physics and life sciences. Our vision is to serve as the forefront computational centre for extending science frontiers by solving problems that require the most innovative approaches and the largest-scale systems.

FEATURE

Clusters have open-source roots

Setting up a computing cluster is much more than simply hooking up additional machines to a network. Somewhere, something has to set up the machines to recognise and work with each other; something has to make sure that compute tasks are assigned to the various nodes in the best fashion. A special class of middleware, which sits between the operating systems and the applications, has evolved specifically to handle these tasks, and it goes by the name of cluster management software.

FEATURE

Crisis management?

When IBM discusses computing in the financial services, it draws upon the image of the American Old West. A gunslinger’s life could depend on his ability to ‘shoot straight, shoot fast, and shoot often’, a situation that encouraged the rapid adoption of any technology perceived to give even a marginal advantage, no matter what the expense. The same paradigm has, until recently, existed among financial firms, with banks willing to invest large sums in both software and hardware in order to generate even a small advantage over their competition.

FEATURE

Athletes go to the max

A visit to the Olympic Museum outside Geneva gives a vivid illustration of how the sporting world has taken advantage of new materials and techniques for decades. Just looking at the shoes, skates or skis from past Olympic Games brings a smile to one’s face. It might seem that there’s not much more improvement we can squeeze out of the human body, even with advanced materials – but modern software is proving that idea wrong.

Increased power efficiency

FEATURE

Saving for the future

The concept of personalised medicine, of tailoring medical care to an individual’s needs, is generally considered to be the goal for how we practise medicine. Translational research, a so-called ‘bench-to-bedside’ approach to life-sciences research, where what is discovered in the laboratory is translated into practical applications (in the case of medicine, to a clinical level), is enabling the shift to personalised medicine. Genomic technologies are also playing a vital role in determining how patients are treated.

FEATURE

Beauty is skin deep

‘These lenses have a surface coating,’ said my partner, waving her expensive light-reactive spectacles at me, ‘and it’s a nightmare because it comes off. Stick that in your article!’

Feature

Gemma Church finds out how astronomers are using simulations to investigate the extremities of our universe

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Turning data into scientific insight is not a straightforward matter, writes Sophia Ktori

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The Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) is driving the development of new energy-efficient practices for HPC, as Robert Roe discovers

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William Payne investigates the growing trend of using modular HPC, built on industry standard hardware and software, to support users across a range of both existing and emerging application areas

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Robert Roe looks at developments in crash testing simulation – including larger, more intricate simulations, the use of optimisation software, and the development of new methodologies through collaboration between ISVs, commercial companies, and research organisations