IDAS: ‘Automagic’ HPC With Training Wheels

By Elizabeth Leake

September 12, 2019

High-performance computing (HPC) for research is notorious for having steep barriers to entry. For this reason, high-tech disciplines were early adopters, have used the most cycles and typically drove hardware and software purchasing decisions. But as more fields engage with data-intensive research and artificial intelligence (AI) workflows, data-center hardware and software landscapes are changing to meet a larger and more diverse community of practice.

The University of Iowa’s (UI) Interactive Data Analytics Service (IDAS) is an HPC resource that supports large-scale and collaborative data analytics workflows involving RStudio for R and Jupyter Notebook for Python (but not limited to Python). Applications via the IDAS interface look and feel like they do on a regular workstation, but with access to thousands of times the computing power. IDAS has its own HPC and graphics processing units (GPUs) and allows users to perform interactive data analysis tasks with applications used for machine learning and AI. In the future, the UI Research Services development team will assist with custom environments. There are plans to add a feature that allows researchers to access Iowa’s Argon supercomputer if more power is needed, or to purchase commercial cloud if locally-hosted HPC isn’t enough.

While RStudio for classroom use is available, RStudio commercial licensing terms changed and pricing increased midstream as IDAS was being developed. Therefore, until a more affordable and dynamic license distribution method is available, IDAS employs the free RStudio classroom license. In the future, a remote desktop feature will be added.

IDAS especially appeals to those who may not have used HPC in the past, but whose data-intensive research would benefit from advanced computational capabilities. Such disciplines are often referred to as, “the long tail of science,” and many have begun to engage with AI methodologies which make their work more computationally-intensive than ever. While they aren’t always the biggest compute consumers, their collective needs represent critical mass that IDAS accommodates quite well.

Experimentation within IDAS is safe with associated storage options that are appropriate for most classifications of data. Sensitive data should be evaluated for IDAS consideration on a case-by-case basis. “If you aren’t sure about your data’s classification, you can arrange a consultation with our compliance specialist,” said Research Services Director Danny Tang.

IDAS Jupyter Notebook serves both general research and classroom needs which were optimized during its pilot phase. A dozen faculty and staff from six departments test-drove the research platform for several months, and classroom attributes were trialed by students in Data Scientist Kang Lee’s (UI Research Services; College of Business) summer business analytics class.

Paul Gowder, UI College of Law

At the time of the mid-August launch, eight classroom instances were registered, including one by Professor Paul Gowder (UI College of Law). Gowder’s research involves the impact of machine learning and predictive modeling on both the practice and concept of law. “I’m planning to use IDAS in my ‘Introduction to Quantitative and Computational Legal Reasoning’ course, and may also utilize it for my research involving AI to understand contracts and records from publicly-available court documents,” said Gowder.

Teaching Assistant James Kent (UI Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience) aides Professor Michelle Voss with Iowa’s structural/functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) methods course. “Our two biggest challenges were installing software on heterogeneous hardware, and random-access memory (RAM) restrictions when running a virtual machine,” said Kent. “With Jupyter Notebook on IDAS, the HPC is handled in the background; this provides students with enough computational power to complete full analyses on real MRI data, not the toy datasets we always curated for this class,” he added.

Kent explained how useful he imagines IDAS will be for workshops, too. Since most are one to three hours in length, less instructional time will be spent installing software and/or learning how to master the hardware. “Some students get discouraged if the preparation phase is too tedious; it presents an unnecessary hurdle,” he said. “If students feel this time is wasted, some may skip the workshop, leave early or walk away with the impression that programming is inaccessible to them,” he added.

Outside of the formal classroom setting, Kent thinks IDAS will be perfect for hackathons. “They’re often about prototyping and Jupyter Notebooks provides a great platform on which to interact with code and receive immediate feedback,” said Kent. In the past, a downside of hackathons was that machine learning models can take a lot of RAM and/or use significant GPU power. HPC is the answer for increased RAM and GPU usage, but mastery of Jupyter Notebooks was difficult with the traditional HPC interface. Kent expressed appreciation for IDAS’ development, and sustained back-end management when he said, “IDAS combines Jupyter Notebooks’ ease of prototyping with the power of HPC that runs and scales ‘automagically’ in the background!”

Prof. Michelle Voss and TA James Kent from the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience leading Brainhack 2019
Brandon LeBeau

Brandon LeBeau (UI College of Education) uses IDAS in an introductory statistics course that allows future educators to explore statistical concepts, remove assumption barriers in the statistical analysis, and introduces them to best practices surrounding script-based analyses. “The goal for this course is for students to learn how to reason with data and make appropriate statistical/data arguments, vs. learning how to program,” he said, and added, “This hands-on approach will help them on their journey to becoming stronger data connoisseurs.”

The computation component in IDAS’ Jupyter Notebooks instance, with an R kernel, gives students access to a modern computing environment without requiring an instructor who doubles as an information technology (IT) professional. “The user experience is also oblivious to compute functions managed by Research Services on the back-end; otherwise the need for programming skills would become a barrier to entry for many students and faculty alike,” said LeBeau.

IDAS was the brainchild of former UI Research Services Director Ben Rogers who aligned the necessary collaborations and allocated funds to make his vision a reality. It was developed by Lee and Interactive Systems Lead Cody B. Johnson. Research Services would like to thank Chris Wilkins and Kevin Zhu of the UI Core IT Facilities Group for their help with deploying IDAS.

“While ten other universities that we know of have similar environments, Iowa is one of the first to host a large-scale, cloud-enabled and expanded HPC resource,” said Lee. “We’re excited about the number of Iowa colleges and departments that engaged in our pilot, and some of the novel applications they’re pursuing on IDAS,” he added.

For more information, visit the U-Iowa ITS-Research Services website.

About the Author

HPCwire Contributing Editor Elizabeth Leake is a consultant, correspondent and advocate who serves the global high performance computing (HPC) and data science industries. In 2012, she founded STEM-Trek, a global, grassroots nonprofit organization that supports workforce development opportunities for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) scholars from underserved regions and underrepresented groups.

As a program director, Leake has mentored hundreds of early-career professionals who are breaking cultural barriers in an effort to accelerate scientific and engineering discoveries. Her multinational programs have specific themes that resonate with global stakeholders, such as food security data science, blockchain for social good, cybersecurity/risk mitigation, and more. As a conference blogger and communicator, her work drew recognition when STEM-Trek received the 2016 and 2017 HPCwire Editors’ Choice Awards for Workforce Diversity Leadership.

An earlier version of this article appears on the University of Iowa website.

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!

SC19’s HPC Impact Showcase Chair: AI + HPC a ‘Speed Train’

November 16, 2019

This year’s chair of the HPC Impact Showcase at the SC19 conference in Denver is Lori Diachin, who has spent her career at the spearhead of HPC. Currently deputy director for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Read more…

By Doug Black

Microsoft Azure Adds Graphcore’s IPU

November 15, 2019

Graphcore, the U.K. AI chip developer, is expanding collaboration with Microsoft to offer its intelligent processing units on the Azure cloud, making Microsoft the first large public cloud vendor to offer the IPU designe Read more…

By George Leopold

At SC19: What Is UrgentHPC and Why Is It Needed?

November 14, 2019

The UrgentHPC workshop, taking place Sunday (Nov. 17) at SC19, is focused on using HPC and real-time data for urgent decision making in response to disasters such as wildfires, flooding, health emergencies, and accidents. We chat with organizer Nick Brown, research fellow at EPCC, University of Edinburgh, to learn more. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

China’s Tencent Server Design Will Use AMD Rome

November 13, 2019

Tencent, the Chinese cloud giant, said it would use AMD’s newest Epyc processor in its internally-designed server. The design win adds further momentum to AMD’s bid to erode rival Intel Corp.’s dominance of the glo Read more…

By George Leopold

NCSA Industry Conference Recap – Part 1

November 13, 2019

Industry Program Director Brendan McGinty welcomed guests to the annual National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) Industry Conference, October 8-10, on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana (UIUC). One hundred seventy from 40 organizations attended the invitation-only, two-day event. Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake, STEM-Trek

AWS Solution Channel

Making High Performance Computing Affordable and Accessible for Small and Medium Businesses with HPC on AWS

High performance computing (HPC) brings a powerful set of tools to a broad range of industries, helping to drive innovation and boost revenue in finance, genomics, oil and gas extraction, and other fields. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Data Management – The Key to a Successful AI Project

 

Five characteristics of an awesome AI data infrastructure

[Attend the IBM LSF & HPC User Group Meeting at SC19 in Denver on November 19!]

AI is powered by data

While neural networks seem to get all the glory, data is the unsung hero of AI projects – data lies at the heart of everything from model training to tuning to selection to validation. Read more…

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing components with Intel Xeon, AMD Epyc, IBM Power, and Arm server ch Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC19’s HPC Impact Showcase Chair: AI + HPC a ‘Speed Train’

November 16, 2019

This year’s chair of the HPC Impact Showcase at the SC19 conference in Denver is Lori Diachin, who has spent her career at the spearhead of HPC. Currently Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel AI Summit: New ‘Keem Bay’ Edge VPU, AI Product Roadmap

November 12, 2019

At its AI Summit today in San Francisco, Intel touted a raft of AI training and inference hardware for deployments ranging from cloud to edge and designed to support organizations at various points of their AI journeys. The company revealed its Movidius Myriad Vision Processing Unit (VPU)... Read more…

By Doug Black

IBM Adds Support for Ion Trap Quantum Technology to Qiskit

November 11, 2019

After years of percolating in the shadow of quantum computing research based on superconducting semiconductors – think IBM, Rigetti, Google, and D-Wave (quant Read more…

By John Russell

Tackling HPC’s Memory and I/O Bottlenecks with On-Node, Non-Volatile RAM

November 8, 2019

On-node, non-volatile memory (NVRAM) is a game-changing technology that can remove many I/O and memory bottlenecks and provide a key enabler for exascale. That’s the conclusion drawn by the scientists and researchers of Europe’s NEXTGenIO project, an initiative funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 program to explore this new... Read more…

By Jan Rowell

MLPerf Releases First Inference Benchmark Results; Nvidia Touts its Showing

November 6, 2019

MLPerf.org, the young AI-benchmarking consortium, today issued the first round of results for its inference test suite. Among organizations with submissions wer Read more…

By John Russell

Azure Cloud First with AMD Epyc Rome Processors

November 6, 2019

At Ignite 2019 this week, Microsoft's Azure cloud team and AMD announced an expansion of their partnership that began in 2017 when Azure debuted Epyc-backed instances for storage workloads. The fourth-generation Azure D-series and E-series virtual machines previewed at the Rome launch in August are now generally available. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Launches Credit Card-Sized 21 TOPS Jetson System for Edge Devices

November 6, 2019

Nvidia has launched a new addition to its Jetson product line: a credit card-sized (70x45mm) form factor delivering up to 21 trillion operations/second (TOPS) o Read more…

By Doug Black

Supercomputer-Powered AI Tackles a Key Fusion Energy Challenge

August 7, 2019

Fusion energy is the Holy Grail of the energy world: low-radioactivity, low-waste, zero-carbon, high-output nuclear power that can run on hydrogen or lithium. T Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DARPA Looks to Propel Parallelism

September 4, 2019

As Moore’s law runs out of steam, new programming approaches are being pursued with the goal of greater hardware performance with less coding. The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency is launching a new programming effort aimed at leveraging the benefits of massive distributed parallelism with less sweat. Read more…

By George Leopold

AMD Launches Epyc Rome, First 7nm CPU

August 8, 2019

From a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco yesterday (Aug. 7), AMD launched its second-generation Epyc Rome x86 chips, based on its 7nm proce Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

D-Wave’s Path to 5000 Qubits; Google’s Quantum Supremacy Claim

September 24, 2019

On the heels of IBM’s quantum news last week come two more quantum items. D-Wave Systems today announced the name of its forthcoming 5000-qubit system, Advantage (yes the name choice isn’t serendipity), at its user conference being held this week in Newport, RI. Read more…

By John Russell

Ayar Labs to Demo Photonics Chiplet in FPGA Package at Hot Chips

August 19, 2019

Silicon startup Ayar Labs continues to gain momentum with its DARPA-backed optical chiplet technology that puts advanced electronics and optics on the same chip Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Crystal Ball Gazing: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Computing

October 14, 2019

Dario Gil, IBM’s relatively new director of research, painted a intriguing portrait of the future of computing along with a rough idea of how IBM thinks we’ Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

ISC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
GOOGLE
GOOGLE
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL

Intel Confirms Retreat on Omni-Path

August 1, 2019

Intel Corp.’s plans to make a big splash in the network fabric market for linking HPC and other workloads has apparently belly-flopped. The chipmaker confirmed to us the outlines of an earlier report by the website CRN that it has jettisoned plans for a second-generation version of its Omni-Path interconnect... Read more…

By Staff report

Kubernetes, Containers and HPC

September 19, 2019

Software containers and Kubernetes are important tools for building, deploying, running and managing modern enterprise applications at scale and delivering enterprise software faster and more reliably to the end user — while using resources more efficiently and reducing costs. Read more…

By Daniel Gruber, Burak Yenier and Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud

Dell Ramps Up HPC Testing of AMD Rome Processors

October 21, 2019

Dell Technologies is wading deeper into the AMD-based systems market with a growing evaluation program for the latest Epyc (Rome) microprocessors from AMD. In a Read more…

By John Russell

Rise of NIH’s Biowulf Mirrors the Rise of Computational Biology

July 29, 2019

The story of NIH’s supercomputer Biowulf is fascinating, important, and in many ways representative of the transformation of life sciences and biomedical res Read more…

By John Russell

Xilinx vs. Intel: FPGA Market Leaders Launch Server Accelerator Cards

August 6, 2019

The two FPGA market leaders, Intel and Xilinx, both announced new accelerator cards this week designed to handle specialized, compute-intensive workloads and un Read more…

By Doug Black

When Dense Matrix Representations Beat Sparse

September 9, 2019

In our world filled with unintended consequences, it turns out that saving memory space to help deal with GPU limitations, knowing it introduces performance pen Read more…

By James Reinders

With the Help of HPC, Astronomers Prepare to Deflect a Real Asteroid

September 26, 2019

For years, NASA has been running simulations of asteroid impacts to understand the risks (and likelihoods) of asteroids colliding with Earth. Now, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are preparing for the next, crucial step in planetary defense against asteroid impacts: physically deflecting a real asteroid. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cerebras to Supply DOE with Wafer-Scale AI Supercomputing Technology

September 17, 2019

Cerebras Systems, which debuted its wafer-scale AI silicon at Hot Chips last month, has entered into a multi-year partnership with Argonne National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as part of a larger collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This