April/May 2010

FEATURE

The Company Lunch Table 2.0

Back before research enterprises stretched across geographies, contract organisations and specialised departments, R&D innovation was centred on personal communication at the company lunch table. It was here that project team leaders would gather to share their knowledge. Rather than focusing on a single aspect of a project, these free-form interactions crossed disciplinary boundaries, and the intersection of ideas resulted in faster discoveries in areas ranging from consumer packaged goods to speciality chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

FEATURE

Finding the 'science' in GIS

Who among us hasn’t used Google Earth or Bing Maps (previously Microsoft Virtual Earth) to take a look at our homes, neighbourhoods or interesting structures? From our desktops we have access not just to street maps, but now aerial and satellite imagery, 3D city models and terrain. These services also make it easy to overlay your own data points or layers to highlight concepts. In just the past year or two, such web services have driven incredible awareness and usage geospatial technologies and applications among the general public.

FEATURE

The ins and outs of HPC

Primarily, as a researcher in high performance IO and file systems, I’ve contributed file systems and IO improvements to multiple supercomputing projects at Sandia. Probably the most visible was the virtual file system interface for our Red Storm machine, the prototype for Cray’s XT line.

Sandia runs a number of scientific machines. Our largest, most popular, machines are:

FEATURE

A picture says a thousand words

When the results of an abstract, intractable, or complicated system are visualised successfully, the results can make for some of the most engaging aspects of HPC today. Dr Lakshmi Sastry is a senior software engineer at the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). Among her many interests, Dr Sastry works on optimising HPC data-processing for users of the STFC’s Isis neutron spectroscopy facility, and the Diamond Light Source synchrotron. ‘One of the results of high performance computing is extremely large amounts of data,’ she explains.

FEATURE

Unbounded clusters

The basic concept behind cluster management is relatively simple: you provision compute nodes with the operating systems, middleware and applications they need and then assign jobs so as to make maximum use of these resources. However, this job is getting ever more complicated, as system architectures add new twists and turns. For example, how are vendors handling the cluster management aspects of cloud computing? To what degree do they support the GPGPUs that are playing an increasingly important role in HPC?

FEATURE

Material values

Early in the film Up in the Air[1], characters played by George Clooney and Vera Farmiga start a casual relationship whose emptiness is emphasised in a pointedly tragicomic scene. Picking up one of Clooney’s airline loyalty cards, Farmiga asks ‘what is that, carbon fibre? ... I love the weight!’ and follows up shortly thereafter with ‘pretty sexy’. It’s a whole new way of looking at materials science.

FEATURE

A booming banking sector

The increased focus on translational research has placed greater emphasis on biobanking as a source of samples for researchers to tap into. The value of these repositories doesn’t lie solely in the samples themselves, but in the metadata associated with each specimen. Researchers studying diseases like cancer can access samples based on criteria specified in the metadata, such as age and health information about the patient, as well as the type and stage of tumour tissue stored, among other information.

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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