The Week in Review
Here is a collection of highlights from this week’s news stream as reported by HPCwire.
Cray Contracts Keep Coming
Cray continues to rack ‘em in. Despite a tough first-quarter economically, Cray continues to pump out contract wins. The latest is for a $47 million deal with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for a next-generation supercomputer.
From the announcement:
The multi-year, multi-phase agreement includes the delivery of a Cray XT6 supercomputer and a delivery of a next-generation Cray supercomputer code-named “Baker.” Phase one of the contract, the delivery of the Cray XT6 system, is expected to go into production in the second half of 2010. Phase two of the contract, which includes the delivery of the additional “Baker” system and upgrading the Cray XT6 system to a “Baker” supercomputer, is expected to be complete in 2011. Additional upgrades are planned for 2012.
The already-named Climate Modeling and Research System (CMRS) will be used for advanced climate modeling and research. When CMRS goes online, it will be the largest such system dedicated to climate research. It will provide the NOAA and its research partners with a dedicated HPC resource, and will empower them with a significant increase in computing might to provide answers to serious climate questions.
Funding for the project is being provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
State-of-the-Heart 3D Modeling
We all know the importance of preventative medicine — ongoing regular checkups and screenings are designed to catch disease in an early stage, when treatment has a far better success rate. Now, scientists from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have developed a 3D supercomputing model that identifies early stages of heart disease.
The researchers from the EPFL Laboratory of Multiscale Modeling of Materials have created a 3D model of the cardiovascular system that shows promise for predicting certain heart diseases before they progress to a more dangerous stage.
With 16,000 microprocessors — the equivalent of 8,000 PCs — Cadmos, the EPFL supercomputer, runs a computer program that models the blood flow in the heart at a revolutionary precision of ten millionths of a meter or ten microns. The models are individualized for each patient and take up to six hours of runtime on a supercomputer. The resulting detailed cardiovascular assessment can lead to early detections of conditions such as arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, that can presage heart attacks.
Arteriosclerosis is a serious condition that creates rigidity and blockage of vital arterial vessels. It is the main cause of heart attacks, which are responsible for 12 percent of deaths in the world. In the first stages of arteriosclerosis, plaques begin to form on the artery walls, disturbing blood flow. The heart scan looks at over a billion different variables in order to represent a fluid containing ten-million red blood cells. It’s that type of precision that leads to the detection of the first signs of arteriosclerosis.
Project Head Simone Melchionna explains further:
When studying the blood flow in arteries, one has to take into account a vast number of different fluid interactions that happen on different time scales and of different sizes. We can evaluate all of the elements and how they interact with each other; move, stagnate and whirl and turn over each other.
Plans are already underway to scale down the program for use on individual PCs to establish wider clinical use. The systems may make their way into medical clinics within the next two to three years. Let’s hope a practical version of the technology makes its to the US in that timeframe: the mortality rate for heart attacks increases to 16 percent in countries where greasy and cholesterol rich foods are common.