US national lab supercomputers to help fight COVID-19

26 March 2020

Five US National Laboratories will play a key role in a consortium tasked with harnessing the power of supercomputers to combat COVID-19, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said in a video address yesterday. The supercomputing facilities at the Department of Energy's (DOE) national laboratories are used, amongst other things, to carry out research supporting the development of next-stage nuclear reactors and advanced nuclear fuel. President Donald Trump announced the launch of the consortium, which includes the Argonne, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Sandia labs, on 23 March.

High-performance computer resources at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (Image: LLNL)

The COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium is a private-public effort led by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the DOE and IBM to bring together federal government, industry and academic leaders who are volunteering free compute time and resources on their machines. It will provide COVID-19 researchers with access to powerful high-performance computing resources.

Brouillette said providing access to "the world's most powerful computing resources" would accelerate research and discovery capabilities in this fight.

The consortium currently pools 16 systems offering more than 330 petaflops of supercomputing capacity. These include the DOE's Summit supercomputer, launched at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2018, where workers are already carrying out research related to COVID-19. Additional capacity, including cloud computing resources, will be added through present and future partners, the DOE said.

The sophisticated computing systems available through the consortium can process massive numbers of calculations related to bioinformatics, epidemiology, molecular modelling and healthcare system response, helping scientists develop answers to complex scientific questions about COVID-19 in hours or days versus weeks and months.

Researchers are invited to submit COVID-19 related research proposals to the consortium via an online portal. Proposals will then be reviewed and matched with computing resources from one of the partner institutions. An expert panel of top scientists and computing researchers will work with proposers to quickly assess the public health benefit of the work and coordinate the allocation of computing assets, the DOE said.

The consortium also includes industrial participants IBM, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Microsoft; from academia, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; and federal agencies the National Science Foundation and NASA. The consortium "welcomes additional members who are capable of contributing significant compute resources to the pool for this important work", the DOE said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News