Supercomputing: The Next Frontier for Health Analytics

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When most people think about how to analyze large amounts of health-related information, the phrase “big data” is what immediately comes to mind. Millions of dollars in resources and thousands of analytics professionals are collectively working towards finding correlations and medical breakthroughs from making the most of your data.

But behind the deluge of data comes with a need for computing. So while many people are fascinated with the potential of data analytics, there are key advancements in supercomputing that are closer to the average analytics professional than many believe. As an example, let’s look at some of today’s biggest health challenges – leukemia, lung cancer, neurological disorders, and diagnosis of those diseases – the key to understand them and get them under control may lie in the huge amounts of data that has already been collected on them. The task to make sense of this “big data” becomes easier when clever minds have access to the right tools and technologies: High Performance Computing (HPC) and supercomputers.

Here is how supercomputing developments already led and will further on lead to next great health analytics discovery:

Knowledge. Supercomputers can analyze large volumes of information in milliseconds, thus providing the foundation for the option/elaboration of diversified diagnoses plus optimized treatments matching the many different shades of etiopathologies . Supercomputing is also working to improve research across a multitude of research areas to power the medical breakthroughs of tomorrow.

Standardization. With the widespread use of supercomputers that are able to access infinite sources of data to any large institution or even small practices, analytics professionals create a level of standardization where the majority of patients are receiving the same path of meaningful care.

Examples of Supercomputers making medical breakthroughs

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (who by the way runs SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on their supercomputer) works on many healthcare related projects – as an example they run a project around Dengue fever.

Piz Daint, the Swiss supercomputer ranked #8 in the top500 list and the fasted in Europe, running Cray Linux Environment which is based on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, also runs some healthcare project, e.g. how bacteria infect wounds, or why some heart failures cannot be eliminated with a pacemaker.

So what are the most powerful ways supercomputing is impacting health ?

Providing the foundation for development of high resolution instruments is one. Cutting costs of research e.g. by shortening the DNA sequencing and indexing time so researchers can advance the fight against cancer and other difficult problems much quicker. If you think of highly contagious diseases / viruses such as the latest Ebola epidemic, with supercomputers you can quickly calculate how it will spread out, and take respective actions.

And another factor, and I hope I can describe it understandably, is: thanks to the supercomputing capabilities, there is a “shift” from kind of an analog diagnosis system and a healthcare provider centric system, to a much more diverse and innovative patient-specific diagnosis system. This is definitely only possible because the many many data that have been collected on diseases over the years can be analyzed with HPC technologies much easier and faster than ever before.

Be prepared – there is more to come!

 

Disclaimer: The text at hand has not been reviewed by a native speaker. If you find typos or language mistakes, please send them to me (meike.chabowski@suse.com) – or if you like them, just keep them and feed them. 😆

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Meike Chabowski
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Meike Chabowski

Meike Chabowski works as Documentation Strategist at SUSE. Before joining the SUSE Documentation team, she was Product Marketing Manager for Enterprise Linux Servers at SUSE, with a focus on Linux for Mainframes, Linux in Retail, and High Performance Computing. Prior to joining SUSE more than 20 years ago, Meike held marketing positions with several IT companies like defacto and Siemens, and was working as Assistant Professor for Mass Media. Meike holds a Master of Arts in Science of Mass Media and Theatre, as well as a Master of Arts in Education from University of Erlangen-Nuremberg/ Germany, and in Italian Literature and Language from University of Parma/Italy.