16 Supercomputers Set to Join the Fight Against COVID-19

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Well here we are in the 3rd week of March and it’s probably fair to say that the last of the ‘it’s not going to be that big a deal’ way of thinking crowd regarding COVID-19 have finally changed their tune. What was once an
epidemic has become a pandemic, and we’re seeing the entire world and our way of life in it being turned upside down. The reality is that this is not only a threat to the lives of human beings, but it’s also a threat to the economy and social service infrastructures that they rely on. First and foremost in this regard is healthcare.

Fortunately, those of us in Canada have it significantly better in that regard than our American neighbors, but even our healthcare system is at risk of being overwhelmed by the Pandemic if it’s not seriously constrained
in its advance. We’ve talked in the past before how 5G technology is set to really revolutionize healthcare
in a big way, but a lot of these benefits are quite ready for implementation yet given that 5G is just beginning to be rolled out. What we need to combat COVID-19 is to get everyone on the same page and buying into what’s the best plan of attack.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we imagine we’re the same as every other Canadian web hosting provider in that this global crisis is front and centre in our minds and we’re equally concerned about what this may mean in a month or two if we don’t make serious inroads into containing this pandemic virus. But in reference to what we alluded to just above – getting people on the same page and buying into what’s best – it would appear as if the digital world is ready to put a few especially powerful non-animate beings on the case too in the interest of fighting COVID-19 as best we can.

Supercomputers – To the Rescue?

Maybe so.

The battle against the Coronavirus will soon have the support of 16 supercomputers, offered for service on behalf of a new consortium of U.S. government agencies and companies. A partnership has been announced between the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Department of Energy where these supercomputers will be available to power the research into what makes the coronavirus unique, and how it might best be overcome.

Participating in the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium are well known major tech companies; IBM, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft. Joining them are two prestigious universities, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Rounding out the roster are five national laboratories, the National Science Foundation, and NASA.

That’s a serious gathering of brainpower, and hopefully the best way of judiciously deciding how this computing power will be put to work.The 16 supercomputers pressed into service now are going to provide more than 330 petaflops of processing power from across 775,999 CPU cores and 34,000 GPUs. Those numbers should seem as impressive as the number of digits on either side of the comma suggest they are! Researchers can use this massive amount of computer power to quickly run through calculations and models which would take days, months, or even years to perform when undertaking those calculation and models with less powerful computers.

How are they able to do this? That’s a question that would have too long an answer to share here in its entirety, but the most powerful supercomputer on the planet – Summit – has already enabled researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee to screen 8,000 compounds to determine which ones are most likely to bind to the main ‘spike’ protein of the coronavirus. When this binding occurs, it renders the virus unable to infect host cells, and as such transmission of the infection does not occur.

Guiding the Best Current Responses

These researchers were then able to use Summit’s resources to search for drug compounds which could act as potential cures or ones that could majorly stem the progression of the viral infection. It only took Summit 2 days to identify 77 compounds which could be potentially useful in the management of the disease. Adding all the other supercomputers to the fight promises to be even more beneficial when ti comes to examining even more data.

Huge companies with massive supercomputers contributing to coronavirus research efforts are great, but they’re not the only ones making very valuable contributions to the fight however. The Folding@Home project is inviting members of the public to contribute processing power from their home computers in a distributed computing project. At present the project is contributing over 470 petaflops of power in total, which is a doubling of what even the Summit supercomputer is capable of!

If interested, anyone who thinks they have something to share can learn about how they can contribute to the project by visiting the Folding@Home website.

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