Canada Explores New Frontiers in Astroinformatics

By Nicole Hemsoth

January 17, 2011

In nearly every research discipline, the number of scientific instruments available to add to the stream of data input has been climbing. While this has spurred any number of software developments in recent years, without adequate hardware processing capabilities to handle the delgue, there can be no match for the possibilities that lie in the incoming data.

Accordingly, a number of research institutions are findings new ways to handle the data deluge, both in terms of reinventing grid-based paradigms and looking to cloud computing models to extend already stretched computational resources.

Astronomy is one of several areas that is suffering from the glut of data brought about by more streamlined, complex, and numerous instruments and not surprisingly, researchers are looking to grid and cloud models to handle the well of data.

Researchers Nicholas Ball and David Schade discussed the concept of astroinformatics in detail, stating that, “in the past two decades, astronomy has gone from being starved for data to being flooded by it. This onslaught has now reached the stage where the exploitation of these data has become a named discipline in its own right…This naming follows in analogy from the already established fields of bio- and geoinformatics, which contain their own journals and funding.”

Canada’s astronomy community is, like other nations with advanced astronomy research programs, looking for ways to approach their big data problem in an innovative way that combines elements of both grid and cloud computing. Their efforts could reshape current views of astroinformatics processing and help the country move toward its goals of becoming a global center for advancements in astronomical research. 

The Canadian Advanced Network for Astronomical Research (CANFAR) is behind an ongoing project in conjunction with CANARIE (a national research network organization) to create a cloud-based platform to support astronomy research. The effort is being led by researchers at the University of Victoria in British Columbia in conjunction with the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre (CADC) and with participation from 11 other Canadian universities.

The goal of the project is to “leverage customized virtual compute and storage clouds, providing astronomers with access to many datasets and resources previously constrained by their local hardware environment.”

The CANFAR platform will take advantage of CANARIE’s high-speed network and a number of open source and proprietary cloud and grid computing tools to allow the country’s astronomy researchers to better handle the vast datasets that are being generated by global observatories. It will also be propelled by the storage and compute capabilities from Compute Canada in addition to the expertise from the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics and the National Research Council of Canada.

CANFAR is driven forward by a number of objectives to support its mission to create a “global machine” that will help researchers further their astronomy goals. The creators of the project stated, “All of the necessary components exist to support science but they don’t work well together in that mission. The type of service layer that is needed to support a high level of integration of these components for astronomy does not exist and needs to be invented, installed, and operated”

What CANFAR Can Do

The value proposition of CANFAR is that it will enable astronomers to process the data from astronomical surveys using a wide array of custom software packages and, of course, to widen the set of computational resources available for these purposes.

A report on the project described CANFAR as “an operational system for the delivery, processing, storage, analysis, and distribution of very large astronomical datasets” and as a project that pulls together a number of Canadian entities, including the Canadian National Research Network (CANARIE), Compute Canada’s extensive grid and storage capabilities, and the CADC data center to create a “unified storage and processing system.”

The report also describes the CANFAR project’s technical details, stating that it has “combined the best features of the grid and cloud processing models by providing a self-configuring virtual cluster deployed on multiple cloud clusters” that takes elements from grid-based services  as well as a number of cloud services, including “Condor, Nimbus or OpenNebula, Eucalyptus or Amazon EC2, Xen, VOSpace, UWS, SSO, CDP and GMS.”

The researchers behind the CANFAR project noted that when considering different virtualization options, they considered both Xen and KVM, but settled on Xen because of its wider popularity at the time and because it was the only one that facility operators had used on an experimental basis in the past.

On the scheduler front, there were complexities because the CANFAR virtual cluster needed a batch job processing system that would provide the functionality of a grid cluster, thus making both Grid Engine and Condor natural options. The team settled on Condor, however, because upon examination of the environment, they found that using Grid Engine would mean that they would have to modify the cluster configuration anytime a VM was added or removed.

The team selected Nimbus as the “glue between cloud clusters” which “examined the workload in the Condor queue and used resources from multiple cloud clusters to create a virtual cluster suitable for the current workload” and used the Nimbus toolkit as the primary cloud technology behind the cloud scheduler.

The team also developed support for openNebula, Eucalyptus and Ec2, but decided on Nimbus because it was open source and permitted the “cloud workload to be intermixed with conventional batch jobs unlike other systems. “ The research team behind CANFAR stated that they believed “that this flexibility makes the deployment more attractive to facility operators.”

With Linux as the operating system and an emphasis on interoperability and open source, CANFAR will be a proving ground for the use of these scheduling and cloud-based management tools on large datasets. In addition to other projects that make use of similar (although diverse in terms of packages used) interoperability and open source paradigms like NASA’s Nebula cloud, there will likely be a number of exciting proof of concept reports that will emerge over the course of the next year.

CANARIE’s vision for the project is that it will also “provide astronomers with novel and more immediate hands-on and interactive ways to process and share very large amounts of data emerging from space exploration.”

In addition to helping research better manage the incredible amounts of data filtering in from collection sites, the project’s goals are also tied to aiding collaboration opportunities among geographically dispersed scientists.

As the CANFAR team noted, “a schematic of contemporary astronomy research shows that the system is essentially a networked global array of infrastructure with scientists and telescopes as I/O devices.”

Slides describing some of the current research challenges and potential benefits as well as some of the context for the project can be found here.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

GDPR’s Impact on Scientific Research Uncertain

May 24, 2018

Amid the angst over preparations—or lack thereof—for new European Union data protections entering into force at week’s end is the equally worrisome issue of the rules’ impact on scientific research. Among the Read more…

By George Leopold

Intel Pledges First Commercial Nervana Product ‘Spring Crest’ in 2019

May 24, 2018

At its AI developer conference in San Francisco yesterday, Intel embraced a holistic approach to AI and showed off a broad AI portfolio that includes Xeon processors, Movidius technologies, FPGAs and Intel’s Nervana Neural Network Processors (NNPs), based on the technology it acquired in 2016. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Pattern Computer – Startup Claims Breakthrough in ‘Pattern Discovery’ Technology

May 23, 2018

If it weren’t for the heavy-hitter technology team behind start-up Pattern Computer, which emerged from stealth today in a live-streamed event from San Francisco, one would be tempted to dismiss its claims of inventing Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPC and AI Convergence is Accelerating New Levels of Intelligence

Data analytics is the most valuable tool in the digital marketplace – so much so that organizations are employing high performance computing (HPC) capabilities to rapidly collect, share, and analyze endless streams of data. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Mastering the Big Data Challenge in Cognitive Healthcare

Patrick Chain, genomics researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory, posed a question in a recent blog: What if a nurse could swipe a patient’s saliva and run a quick genetic test to determine if the patient’s sore throat was caused by a cold virus or a bacterial infection? Read more…

Silicon Startup Raises ‘Prodigy’ for Hyperscale/AI Workloads

May 23, 2018

There's another silicon startup coming onto the HPC/hyperscale scene with some intriguing and bold claims. Silicon Valley-based Tachyum Inc., which has been emerging from stealth over the last year and a half, is unveili Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Pledges First Commercial Nervana Product ‘Spring Crest’ in 2019

May 24, 2018

At its AI developer conference in San Francisco yesterday, Intel embraced a holistic approach to AI and showed off a broad AI portfolio that includes Xeon processors, Movidius technologies, FPGAs and Intel’s Nervana Neural Network Processors (NNPs), based on the technology it acquired in 2016. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Pattern Computer – Startup Claims Breakthrough in ‘Pattern Discovery’ Technology

May 23, 2018

If it weren’t for the heavy-hitter technology team behind start-up Pattern Computer, which emerged from stealth today in a live-streamed event from San Franci Read more…

By John Russell

Silicon Startup Raises ‘Prodigy’ for Hyperscale/AI Workloads

May 23, 2018

There's another silicon startup coming onto the HPC/hyperscale scene with some intriguing and bold claims. Silicon Valley-based Tachyum Inc., which has been eme Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Japan Meteorological Agency Takes Delivery of Pair of Crays

May 21, 2018

Cray has supplied two identical Cray XC50 supercomputers to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) in northwestern Tokyo. Boasting more than 18 petaflops combine Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ASC18: Final Results Revealed & Wrapped Up

May 17, 2018

It was an exciting week at ASC18 in Nanyang, China. The student teams braved extreme heat, extremely difficult applications, and extreme competition in order to cross the cluster competition finish line. The gala awards ceremony took place on Wednesday. The auditorium was packed with student teams, various dignitaries, the media, and other interested parties. So what happened? Read more…

By Dan Olds

Spring Meetings Underscore Quantum Computing’s Rise

May 17, 2018

The month of April 2018 saw four very important and interesting meetings to discuss the state of quantum computing technologies, their potential impacts, and th Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Quantum Network Hub Opens in Japan

May 17, 2018

Following on the launch of its Q Commercial quantum network last December with 12 industrial and academic partners, the official Japanese hub at Keio University is now open to facilitate the exploration of quantum applications important to science and business. The news comes a week after IBM announced that North Carolina State University was the first U.S. university to join its Q Network. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Democratizing HPC: OSC Releases Version 1.3 of OnDemand

May 16, 2018

Making HPC resources readily available and easier to use for scientists who may have less HPC expertise is an ongoing challenge. Open OnDemand is a project by t Read more…

By John Russell

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17

Altair

AMD @ SC17

AMD

ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack

CEJN @ SC17

CEJN

DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17

Huawei

IBM @ SC17

IBM

IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17

Intel

Lenovo @ SC17

Lenovo

Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17

Microsoft

Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17

Supericro

Tyan @ SC17

Tyan

Univa @ SC17

Univa

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CFO Steps down in Executive Shuffle at Supermicro

January 31, 2018

Supermicro yesterday announced senior management shuffling including prominent departures, the completion of an audit linked to its delayed Nasdaq filings, and Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Wins $57 Million DoD Supercomputing Contract

February 20, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today revealed details of its massive $57 million HPC contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The deal calls for HP Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Deep Learning Portends ‘Sea Change’ for Oil and Gas Sector

February 1, 2018

The billowing compute and data demands that spurred the oil and gas industry to be the largest commercial users of high-performance computing are now propelling Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Ups Hardware Game with 16-GPU DGX-2 Server and 18-Port NVSwitch

March 27, 2018

Nvidia unveiled a raft of new products from its annual technology conference in San Jose today, and despite not offering up a new chip architecture, there were still a few surprises in store for HPC hardware aficionados. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Hennessy & Patterson: A New Golden Age for Computer Architecture

April 17, 2018

On Monday June 4, 2018, 2017 A.M. Turing Award Winners John L. Hennessy and David A. Patterson will deliver the Turing Lecture at the 45th International Sympo Read more…

By Staff

HPC and AI – Two Communities Same Future

January 25, 2018

According to Al Gara (Intel Fellow, Data Center Group), high performance computing and artificial intelligence will increasingly intertwine as we transition to Read more…

By Rob Farber

Part One: Deep Dive into 2018 Trends in Life Sciences HPC

March 1, 2018

Life sciences is an interesting lens through which to see HPC. It is perhaps not an obvious choice, given life sciences’ relative newness as a heavy user of H Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This