December 02, 2005
Microsoft Corp. Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates earlier this month announced that Microsoft is funding joint research at the Texas Advanced Computer Center (TACC) at The University of Texas at Austin as well as nine other academic centers worldwide. The announcement, made at Supercomputing 2005, ties directly into Microsoft's long-term commitment to working with the high-performance computing community.
In his keynote address to more than 7,000 attendees, Gates articulated how the software industry can contribute to accelerating scientific research and engineering innovation, and called for broad collaboration between the computing industry, academia and government to make technical computing easier and more productive. He also emphasized his enthusiasm for the future role of computing in scientific discovery.
"Technical computing is crucial to the many discoveries that impact our quality of life from making safer, more efficient cars and airplanes to addressing global health issues and environmental changes," Gates states in a Microsoft press release. "Moreover, most sciences are becoming computational sciences, which is why advanced computing capabilities need to be seamlessly integrated into the end-to-end scientific process. We see many opportunities to collaborate with the scientific community on innovative solutions that will accelerate the pace of insight and discovery."
TACC Director Dr. Jay Boisseau says that the joint research projects with Microsoft will leverage each of the five technology groups at TACC:
Microsoft selected TACC as one of ten advanced computing centers worldwide to work with because of the center's deep expertise in high-performance computing and comprehensive knowledge in the other areas listed above.
In addition to evaluating Microsoft's Windows Cluster Edition in traditional HPC applications, TACC will focus its participation in the Microsoft Technical Computing Initiative on the use of relational database technology, specifically SQL Server, in science and engineering.
"One of our projects with Microsoft will be the evaluation of database technologies for different types of scientific data traditionally stored in flat files," Boisseau says. "We hope the results of this project will help researchers improve their ability to effectively use and analyze the large amounts of scientific data made available from new, more powerful instruments and increasingly large HPC systems."
To achieve this end, TACC will assess the suitability of using Relational Database Management System technology in the storage, retrieval and processing of different kinds of scientific data collections spanning a range from geospatial (next-generation radar precipitation), bioinformatics (ribosomal ribonucleic acid) and volumes (computed tomography of fossils) to data associated with traditional finite element simulations (computational fluid dynamics).
This will require exploration of some of SQL Server 2005's new capabilities such as user-defined types, embedded code, as well as the evaluation of how to maximize parallel I/O from the database to outboard compute resources or indeed, to use the database to minimize the need to move large amounts of unneeded data.
"We want to answer the question of whether the modern database, deployed in a clustered configuration and taking advantage of parallel processing capabilities, can provide advantages to the researcher and accelerate the production of knowledge and insight," says Tomislav Urban, manager of TACC's Data and Information Systems Group.
TACC was one of ten academic institutes selected by Microsoft. The multiyear, multimillion-dollar investment in joint research projects at these institutes will help guide ongoing software research and product innovation at Microsoft to address the most challenging technical computing problems. These institutes are Cornell University (U.S.); Nizhni Novgorod State University (Russia); Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China); Tokyo Institute of Technology (Japan); University of Southampton (England); University of Stuttgart (Germany); University of Tennessee (U.S.); University of Texas at Austin (U.S.); University of Utah (U.S.); and University of Virginia (U.S.).
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