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Oak Ridge Summit supercomputer
Among the high-performance computing resources that will be made available for coronavirus research is Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Summit, the world’s fastest supercomputer. (ORNL Photo)

Less than a week after the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy organized a consortium to focus the power of artificial intelligence on addressing the coronavirus outbreak, another tech team is joining the fight — this time, armed with supercomputers and the cloud.

The COVID-19 High-Performance Computing Consortium, organized by OSTP and IBM, has the Seattle area’s powerhouses of cloud computing, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft on board. Google Cloud is in on the effort as well.

There are also academic partners (MIT and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), federal agency partners (NASA and the National Science Foundation) and five Department of Energy labs (Argonne, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Sandia).

Among the resources being brought to bear is the world’s most powerful supercomputer, the Oak Ridge Summit, which packs a 200-petaflop punch.

“America is coming together to fight COVID-19, and that means unleashing the full capacity of our world-class supercomputers to rapidly advance scientific research for treatments and a vaccine,” Michael Kratsios, the White House’s chief technology officer, said in a news release.

The research projects supported by the consortium are expected to range from studies of the SARS-CoV-2 virus’ molecular makeup, to the bioinformatics behind the workings of the virus, to the epidemiology behind COVID-19’s spread and the strategies for stopping it. The common thread is the need for high-performance computing resources to get a handle on the complex challenges of such studies.

Microsoft will be providing grants to researchers through its AI for Health program, to ensure additional access to Azure Cloud and the company’s high-performance computing capabilities. AI for Health’s data science experts will also make themselves available to collaborate on COVID-19 research projects.

“We want to make sure researchers working to combat COVID-19 have access to the tools they need,” said John Kahan, Microsoft Global AI for Health lead.

Amazon Web Services is offering research institutions and companies technical support and promotional credits for the use of AWS services to advance research on diagnosis, treatment and vaccine studies relating to the coronavirus and its effects.

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“We’re proud to support this critical work and stand ready with the compute power of AWS to help accelerate research and development efforts,” Teresa Carlson, vice president for AWS Worldwide Public Sector, said in a statement.

Similar access to high-performance computing resources is being made available to researchers via Google Cloud HPC, the IBM Research WSC Cluster, NASA’s High-End Computing Capability, Rensselaer’s AIMOS supercomputer system, the MIT/Massachusetts Green HPC Center, NSF’s Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (which can provide access to Frontera, the fastest supercomputer deployed on a U.S. academic campus) and the five national labs.

To take advantage of those resources, researchers should submit a simple project proposal via consortium’s website. A steering committee will review proposals for potential impact, feasibility, resource requirements and timeline.

Each proposal that’s selected will be matched up with computing resources from one of the consortium’s members. That member will then get in contact with the research team to discuss the process for obtaining access to the resources.

Researchers making their proposals should expect to produce a regularly updated blog of their activities during the course of their work, and have publishable results come out of their efforts.

Microsoft is also part of the team behind the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset, or CORD-19, which is offering an AI-enabled database to provide faster, surer, wider-ranging access to coronavirus research.

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