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Supercharging Data-Science in the Cloud

Supercharging Data-Science in the Cloud

International Computer Scientists and leading Technologists gather in Wellington to discuss the future of Supercomputing.

Multicore World 2016 – 15 -16 -17 February, Wellington.

Some of the most recognised authorities in computing are converging in Wellington for the 5th Multicore World. A computer conference about the formula-one, or high-performance, aspects of computer systems. The conference aims to advance all aspects of multicore and many-core technology.

At the heart of every computer is a Processing Unit, often called a Core.
Today’s computers, especially any mobile phone contain many of these Cores. They enable your smartphone to do many things at once- in parallel. If you have spoken to a virtual assistant like Siri, played a game, or posted a photo to Facebook you have used hundreds of these Cores in a blink of an eye. The technique used at Facebook to recognise the faces of your friends and family need the raw computing power of many Cores. Speech recognition and techniques called Machine Learning all use many cores to be practical.

Supercomputers give us the ability to analyse massive volumes of data and are becoming more common in this era of “data deluge”.
Due to lowering costs and the energy efficiency required for mobile phones and Cloud Computing, high-performance computing (HPC) is becoming accessible to general business, science and government. Writing software that takes advantage of the computing requires very specialised knowledge. A focus of the Multicore World 2016 conference aims discussion around ideas to reduce this barrier. To make the technology more accessible to a wider community of software developers and scientists.

It turns out New Zealand is an epicentre for HPC efforts and entrepreneurs.
New Zealand universities and companies are contributing to the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Supercomputer designs. Expatriate Uruguayan, Nicolás Erdödy says looking into deep space "requires an enormous amount of computing power." Erdödy is the driving force behind the Multicore World series and founder of Open Parallel. Every year has been able to attract world class speakers to the conference. That includes many people involved with the SKA project. Open Parallel is leading efforts to help foster the wider adoption of HPC. The company contributes to the designs of the software platform for the SKA project. They are aiming to help build and commercialise software required for these Supercomputers.

The SKA project presents a once in a generation opportunity for New Zealand.
Erdödy says that “it is not often that New Zealand has the chance to play an important part of the design of a Big Science project” -which already involves a dozen countries. The benefits are way beyond just the science applications. Fonterra for instance could improve production costs "just by using new software techniques to optimise milk production patterns" suggests Erdödy. The hope is building a stronger community around HPC will spill-over into economic benefit for the country. The Director of AUT’s High Performance Computing Research Laboratory, Dr Andrew Ensor concurs, “We’re pushing the envelope of what is possible with computing and that will have economic benefit.” Multicore World is a leading part of this broader ambition and it is paying dividends.

American expatriate Alex St John attributes the insight for his latest technology invention directly to working with Open Parallel and AUT on the SKA project. St John, a pioneer in the computer games market and inventor of Microsoft’s DirectX system, says “It’s hard to beat hanging around with brilliant engineers, astrophysicists and mathematicians for a week.” As a result St John co-founded Nyriad with Matthew Simmons -having both meet at Multicore World 2014. Nyriad is on track to become a global player in the Big-Data computing market. Entrepreneur and technology investor Scott Houston now sits on the board of Nyriad. Houston founded GreenButton, a New Zealand HPC success story. Acquired by Microsoft in 2014, Houston has been impressed with the conference -having attended and supported many of the prior editions. According to Houston it is unique to have “the industry’s most influential leaders arriving right at our doorstep.” The future of IT, according to Houston therefore “lies in understanding, developing and supporting scalable technology that harnesses the latest Multicore technologies.”

That future is rapidly approaching in the form of Artificial Intelligence. A leading example of that future comes from the mind of New Zealander Shane Legg. Legg is the co founder of DeepMind (acquired by Google in 2014) a company specialising in Artificial Intelligence research and applications. If you use Google’s services you’ve already used the work of Legg and his team. The training of DeepMinds advanced computer algorithms requires specialised many-core processors.

Organised every year by Open Parallel since 2012, Multicore World takes the pulse of the global HPC ecosystem. Sessions cover latest developments in software and hardware, applications and the businesses behind high-performance computing. The Multicore World 2016 conference puts Wellington and New Zealand at the centre of these technology advancements.


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