High Performance Computing in the Age of Coronavirus | SUSE Communities

High Performance Computing in the Age of Coronavirus


2020 has suddenly become the year of the coronavirus. In order to slow transmissions, save lives and dampen the economic impact of this frightful virus – governments, medical professionals, research institutes are racing around the clock to transform plans into action. Speed is key – that’s where high performance computing comes in.

Here are a few profiles of organizations that are stepping up to the front lines of this new bio-war:

Merck: a key tactic for beating the coronavirus would be developing an effective vaccine. Pharmaceutical companies such as Merck are leading the charge, no expense spared – hoping to have a vaccine in a few months’ time. Even in China, where the virus was hardest hit,  Merck’s 4,000 employees are already back to work.

HPC in action: Vaccine research generates large data sets. Electron microscopy and other techniques are utilized to visualize and validate vaccine candidates, these data are stored in large databases, as  the structure of sample vaccines need to show near atomic resolution,  this in turn requires massive parallel computing power. This is where high performance computing (HPC) comes in and shines in the field of vaccine research.

Roche: Roche plays an important role in the battle against coronavirus in 2 very significant ways. One is testing, as a leader in diagnostics, Roche and its factories are rolling around the clock to produce coronavirus test kits and working with health authorities in affected countries to ensure people can get access to screening. They have just pushed out a new test that’s 10 times faster than previous methods and 1 unit can test thousands of samples a day. And after FDA approval, they are going to ship 400k of these to the US every week. Two is a new use for its anti-inflammation drug Actemra – China has already given the green light to use it to treat late stage coronavirus patients suffering severe lung damage. Since Actemra’s approval a decade ago, it has become a go-to drug against other inflammatory conditions. The hope is in the case of COVID-19, it can help stop the body from over-reacting to the infection and attacking lungs and other organs.

HPC in action: By combines supercomputing with the human genome project, HPC is now the breakthrough that’s at the center of  almost every drug discovery process. Lab researchers create data-driven models of human disease progression and drug response – which are used to run simulations to help discover new drug candidates. Massive computing power help companies like Roche guide the research and ultimately selection of drugs to improve patient outcome.

Max Planck Institute: The Max Planck Society supports fundamental research in the natural, life and social sciences. Some of their life sciences research cover everything from Biological Structures to Neural Circuits, from Virology to Drug Discovery.  With the COVID-19 epidemic spreading globally, Max Planck Institute recently teamed up with 5 of Europe’s biggest national scientific research organizations to call for a long-term approach to funding research into the biology, economics and sociology of viral infections.

HPC in action: The big data era offers a golden opportunity for HPC demonstrate significant societal and economic impact. Not only does HPC enable complex applications in distinct scientific fields like biology, economics and sociology, it can cross the boundaries and bring all of them together in new simulation models and take into consideration thousands of complex factors. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning also have new applications in this area, breaking down barriers and enabling holistic research.

These are just a few examples of organizations that are accelerating existing efforts to help humanity stem the tide against COVID-19. And do you know what else they have in common? They are all SUSE customers. That’s right, SUSE has a proven track record in High Performance Computing. In fact, SUSE runs 21 of top 50 supercomputers and we have a 53% market share in the top 100 supercomputers. So in a small way, we are doing our part too.

To bring HPC solutions to bear on solving humanity’s toughest problems, SUSE works with many industry leaders including:

  • AMD
  • Arm
  • Dell
  • Fujitsu
  • HPE/Cray/SGI
  • Intel
  • Lenovo
  • Marvell
  • and more, which you can read about here.

In my role in SUSE Alliance Marketing, I’ve learned a lot about the Dell lineup of Ready Solutions for HPC which gives customers a range of options, are perfect for organizations of every size, and deliver purpose built servers, storage and workstations to fit every use case. They offer many design choices to help accelerate deployments and scaling for your unique HPC needs.

We are all in this together, high performance computing for a better tomorrow. Stay safe, stay well.


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    Helen TangHelen Tang is a worldwide evangelist and runs alliances marketing at SUSE. In this role, Helen focuses on helping customers launch digital transformations in their own data centers or in the cloud. Her team helps customers adapt new infrastructure, modernize applications and implement mission critical workloads with our partner solutions.