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By Bruce Sussman
Mon | Mar 23, 2020 | 9:45 AM PDT

When IBM, Amazon Web Services, Google, and Microsoft are working together to solve a problem, you know the issue must be extraordinary.

In 2020, that problem is the coronavirus.

The companies are coming together to let researchers utilize some of the most complex and largest supercomputing networks on the planet.

What is the COVID-19 High Performance Computing (HPC) Consortium?

The COVID-19 HPC Consortium is a collaborative effort to model possible solutions to the coronavirus pandemic, unleashing more than 330 petaflops, 775,000 CPU cores, and 34,000 GPUs of computing power.

Dario Gil, Director of IBM Research, manages to explain these numbers in plain English. He says the consortium:

"...will bring forth an unprecedented amount of computing power— to help researchers everywhere better understand COVID-19, its treatments and potential cures.

How can supercomputers help us fight this virus? These high-performance computing systems allow researchers to run very large numbers of calculations in epidemiology, bioinformatics, and molecular modeling. These experiments would take years to complete if worked by hand, or months if handled on slower, traditional computing platforms."

Who is part of the coronavirus supercomputing consortium?

This started as a collaboration with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and now includes U.S. federal government computing centers, academic leaders, and the supercomputing power of worldwide tech giants.

  • IBM
  • Amazon Web Services
  • Google Cloud
  • Microsoft
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Department of Energy National Laboratories:
  • Argonne National Laboratory
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Sandia National Laboratories
Federal agencies:
  • National Science Foundation
  • NASA

How will supercomputing help solve the coronavirus pandemic?

The COVID-19 HPC Consortium is offering free and extraordinary supercomputing power to scientists, medical researchers, and government agencies who are trying to solve the coronavirus problem.

Gil says it unlocks great potential to help find treatments or help develop vaccines.

"As a powerful example of the potential, IBM's Summit, the most powerful supercomputer on the planet, has already enabled researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee to screen 8,000 compounds to find those that are most likely to bind to the main 'spike' protein of the coronavirus, rendering it unable to infect host cells. They were able to recommend the 77 promising small-molecule drug compounds that could now be experimentally tested. This is the power of accelerating discovery through computation," Gil says.

This is truly a collaborative effort the entire world can support.

[Visit the COVID-19 HPC Consortium website]

[Researchers: Submit your COVID-19 related proposal to the HPC]

[New online cybersecurity learning initiative: SecureWorld Remote Sessions]

Tags: Big Data,