What can 10 Teraflops of computing power do in the fight against COVID-19? As it turns out, a lot. This is because massive computing power is needed to understand the coronavirus, which in turn is the cause of the disease COVID-19.
With the knowledge derived from vast amounts of computations, it’s possible to research and develop treatments and vaccines. This was exactly what David Vanfroyenhoven and Arnout Verbeken at Hewlett Packard Enterprise in Belgium wanted to contribute with. So, through their initiative HPE decided to contribute with more than 100 units of HPE ProLiant servers and C-class blades to the cause. All this massive computing power, 10 Teraflops, is orchestrated as composable infrastructure by HPE Synergy.
The compute power that HPE servers provide is used to help reveal the structure of COVID-19 proteins.David Vanfroyenhoven, Technical Consultant at HPE in Belgium.
”The compute power that HPE servers provide is used to help reveal the structure of COVID-19 proteins. The servers design and compute millions of combinations of so-called amino acid chains,” says David Vanfroyenhoven, Technical Consultant at HPE in Belgium.
So how does this work? Imagine a metal chain that, when pulled and hanging in the air, is straight. Its shape is easy to grasp and predict in this state. But when you drop it on the ground it folds and can end up in millions of different ways. Proteins, which are the basis of how biology gets things done, act in pretty much the same way. They can be described as necklaces of amino acids, long chain molecules.
”So, if we can understand how these proteins fold, we can understand the driving force behind all of the biochemical reactions that make biology work, including viruses. And if we understand that, we can create treatments and vaccines,” says David Vanfroyenhoven.
What is needed then, in order to predict the folding, is a lot of computing power. This is exactly what those 100 HPE units are now providing to Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing, or BOINC. This is a distributed computing platform founded by the University of California at Berkeley that connects computers around the world so that scientific institutes can use the network for computationally intensive research.
“One of the 30 studies supported by BOINC is called Rosetta@Home, an open-source protein binding study to reveal the combination of proteins from which COVID-19 is derived,” says Arnout Verbeken, HPE Synergy Master at HPE Belgium.
So instead of throwing all of those calculations at a supercomputer, which you traditionally might have done, these projects are based on distributed computing. This means that each and every one of us can, with a few clicks, install a software that runs on our own computer and help out in the folding. What really bumps the speed up though is when huge clusters of servers, like the HPE cluster with 3882 high-end CPUs, join the cause.
COVID-19 can only be overcome through lasting and intelligent cooperation. I am extremely proud of this initiative and we hope to make a difference.Stéphane Lahaye, Managing Director Belux HPE.
“HPE Belgium now ranks third on the list of average contributions to BOINC, which takes into account the number of servers, IT jobs and data of the organizations. I think this is a remarkable achievement,” says Stéphane Lahaye, Managing Director Belux HPE.
The compute now provided by HPE Belgium is equivalent to the power of approximately 500 laptops, and the combined strength is now increased further as HPE Belgium employees run the Rosetta@Home software on their own computers.
“COVID-19 can only be overcome through lasting and intelligent cooperation. Our employees understood this when they provided BOINC with the additional server capacity needed to search for the vaccine that the world is eagerly awaiting. I am extremely proud of this initiative and we hope to make a difference,” says Stéphane Lahaye.
”You don’t have to be a scientist to do science” is the first thing you read when entering the Rosetta@Home website. It’s actually easy to help out by using your own computer. Go to https://boinc.bakerlab.org and click ”Join Rosetta@Home”. Install and run the free software and you help to advance research.