Machine Learning Gets HPC Treatment at University of Pisa

By Louis Vistola

March 13, 2017

The University of Pisa, established in 1343, is one of the oldest universities in the world and it has continuously evolved to meet the new challenges of international research and education at the highest level.

To help keep the University at the leading edge in multiple scientific, mathematical, and engineering disciplines, the IT infrastructure has gotten great attention. Specifically, in recent years, there has been a determination that the university’s IT center must not only support its students and faculty in their research and development ventures, but also offer help to Italian industries, providing facilities for the design and testing of innovative solutions.

Building a world-class computing center for modern R&D requires help from leading technology partners. Recognizing this, the university partnered with Dell EMC and Intel to build an IT infrastructure that delivers the compute power, storage capacity, and performance required to do advanced and innovative research in highly competitive fields.

The focal point of the effort is the Dell | Intel Competence Centre for Cloud and High Performance Computing (HPC) at the University of Pisa. The center was created to respond to the rapidly growing need for cutting-edge infrastructure solutions, allowing University researchers to share and power their work, and visitors to get insights into the latest and most efficient infrastructure technology.

The partnership is a true collaboration with all those involved realizing valuable benefits. “Dell EMC has helped us to create a state-of-the-art storage and computing environment for our students and researchers and, in turn, we have helped with a number of proofs of concepts,” said Maurizio Davini, CTO, IT Center, University of Pisa.

Using PowerEdge servers with the latest Intel Xeon processors, University departments and local companies can develop, test, and run innovative algorithms. “We can run highly complex algorithms that were just not possible before our Dell EMC solution,” Davini said. “We can support local organizations in their ventures. And we can drive research that, in turn, is helping development across the region.”

Machine learning steps up

The center is being used by many groups to conduct research in a variety of disciplines. One area that is ripe of center’s HPC capabilities is Machine Learning.

Recent efforts have explored machine translation, image captioning, and cancer treatment response prediction. Additionally, industrial projects have focused on big data analytics, machine learning models for the semiconductor industry, and biophysical signal analysis.

Examples of the machine learning work being done in different research areas includes:

Semiconductor industry: The center is being used to help develop data analytics and machine learning models to improve integrated circuit production. The methodology used is trying to quantify design space coverage, which is a unifying abstraction for all components of the design-to-manufacturing data flow, with the hope of optimizing yield of integrated circuits that are being created using today’s much smaller scale structures.

Life sciences: The center is helping researchers apply machine learning to better understand DNA sequencing data. The work requires encoding DNA sequence data as an image dataset and then using deep learning image classification and training solutions. The researchers use Dell EMC PowerEdge C4130 servers to run multiple analyses in parallel. Applications for this work include personalized and genomics-based medicine.

Biophysics: Combining university research and expertise, industrial demands, and the center’s HPC capabilities, BioBeats ─ a University of Pisa spin-off start-up ─ uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze users’ heartbeats and create adaptive music. The company’s Hear and Now app teaches breathing exercises that help users relax. The app is based on clinically validated stress-reducing and mindfulness practices.

Summary

HPC has become the backbone of science and product development. A balanced HPC infrastructure must be tailored to the task at hand and the application and code tied to that task. The right system and implementation, proper services and support must be designed to make for efficient research workflows and processes, getting results faster and optimizing and speeding up discovery or a product’s time to market.

The Dell | Intel Competence Centre for Cloud and High Performance Computing at the University of Pisa is expanding the boundaries of what is possible. The Center offers compute technology that is flexible to meet diverse density, form-factor, and performance criteria. Offers intelligent, high-performance, and scalable storage strategies to get the data explosion under control and make data easily accessible for researchers. And makes use of networking and interconnect technologies that are simplified and standardized for HPC infrastructures.

 

To learn more about empowering your R&D efforts by making use of the most advanced HPC solutions for the enterprise, visit:

http://www.intel.com/content/dam/www/public/us/en/documents/case-studies/hpc-univ-pisa.pdf

 Video: University of Pisa Simplifies HPC with Intel and Dell | Intel IT Center

 http://www.dell.com/hpc

http://www.intel.com/ssf

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