Related As big data becomes a common analytical tool in fields from the sciences to the humanities, Harvard’s computer infrastructure experts are turning their attention to an increasingly pressing question: How do you manage it all?In recent years, Harvard invested in the Odyssey computing cluster, whose 60,000 CPUs provide the sheer computing horsepower needed to crunch big data.But as large data sets multiply, the question of where to put the information and how to seamlessly retrieve it for analysis has become increasingly important. In August, the National Science Foundation announced a grant of nearly $4 million over the next five years to develop the North East Storage Exchange (NESE), a collaboration among five area universities, including Harvard, to provide not just space for massive data sets, but also the high-speed infrastructure that allows it to be quickly retrieved for analysis.“People are downloading now 50 to 80 terabyte data sets from NCBI [the National Center for Biotechnology Information] and the National Library of Medicine over an evening. This is the new normal. People [are] pulling genomic data sets wider and deeper than they’ve ever been,” said James Cuff, Harvard’s assistant dean and distinguished engineer for research computing. “What used to be — in lab, in vivo, or in vitro practice — ‘cutting edge’ … are now standard old processes. PCR [polymerase chain reaction] was cutting edge at one point. Now it’s just a thing you do.”The institutions involved include Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, Boston University, and the University of Massachusetts. They are taking on the project as an expansion of their existing high-performance computing collaboration. In 2012, the five institutions opened the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC). Located in Holyoke on a rehabilitated industrial site, MGHPCC provides state-of-the-art computing services and is home to part of Harvard’s Odyssey computer. The site was also designed to be energy-efficient and is largely run on hydropower and solar energy.MGHPCC President Richard McCullough, Harvard’s vice provost for research and professor of materials science and engineering, said the capacity the project will provide is badly needed, but the project is seen as more than a one-off effort. Lessons learned will help inform similar efforts elsewhere.“You just need more and more of these kinds of resources to be at the forefront of data science,” McCullough said. “This grant will keep us at the forefront, and may allow us to take a quantum leap forward. This is a really important win for us.” Cuff expects data retrieval from the North East Storage Exchange to be about 10 times faster than that from equivalent storage through private cloud-based servers, and McCullough said it will be cheaper too, just a fifth that of commercial vendors.Cuff, NESE’s principal investigator, said that officials hope to have more than 50 petabytes of storage capacity available at MGHPCC within the next five years, with the ability to expand it further. John Goodhue, MGHPCC’s executive director and a co-principal investigator of NESE, said he expects the speed of the connection to collaborating institutions to double or triple over the next few years.“What we’re building is an extendable architecture,” Cuff said.Though Cuff said NESE could be thought of as collaborating institutions’ private cloud, he doesn’t expect NESE to compete with commercial cloud storage providers. Rather, he said, researchers have a range of data storage options, which should be matched to their purpose. NESE, for example, could potentially back up its data to the cloud.“This isn’t a competitor to the cloud. It’s a complementary cloud storage system,” Cuff said.Cuff compared the NESE collaboration to the early days of the internet, when the communications needs of groups of institutions prompted them to create computer networks that grew increasingly interconnected. Now, the problem facing institutions around the country is how to manage the tidal wave of data being generated by researchers and the larger wave likely to break over them in the years to come.The collaboration depends on contributions from each institution, Cuff said, adding that the five-year effort is also an experiment in managing their needs in order to build the research computing infrastructure of the future.Despite all the effort, Goodhue and Cuff said, ultimately the goal is to make it invisible to the users.“There’s cost savings at every level, savings in the amount of time a researcher has to spend worrying about whether the data is OK and backed up properly,” Goodhue said. “Having something so easy to work with that you don’t even have to think about it is a goal too.” Across Harvard, programs and researchers are mining vast quantities of computerized information, sometimes revolutionizing their fields in the process Big data, massive potential
Isolation is also hard when space is constrained and rooms are often shared, said Annie Wilkinson, a research fellow at research organization the Institute of Development Studies.”Slums’ informal or illegal status often undermines both the collection of data and the implementation of policies to improve health,” she said.”There is a real risk that the impacts on the urban poor will be considerably higher than elsewhere,” she said.’Alarming’In Hong Kong, where thousands of people who have recently visited China or may have had contact with patients, are confined to their homes under quarantine orders, it is particularly risky for those who live in partitioned flats.These units generally have poor ventilation and drainage, and residents are more vulnerable because of the shared kitchen and toilets, said Choyu Cheung, a community organizer at the Society for Community Organization, a non-profit.”This epidemic highlights how alarming the housing situation is in Hong Kong,” Cheung said.While the Hong Kong government has announced handouts to tackle the outbreak, some public housing has been converted into quarantine centers, thereby reducing an already constrained supply of public housing.In South Asia, authorities have reported rising numbers of coronavirus cases.In India, at least 4 million people are homeless in urban areas, and more than 70 million live in informal settlements, said Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), a non-profit.In addition to providing emergency accommodation and healthcare services, authorities must enforce a moratorium on evictions, said Shivani Chaudhry, executive director at HLRN.”Under the current circumstances, demolishing homes and rendering people homeless would result in increasing their vulnerability to contracting and spreading the virus,” she said.In Delhi, city officials are sanitizing homeless shelters, and providing tent shelters until the end of the month, said Bipin Rai, a member of the Delhi Urban Slum Improvement Board.”The government is closely monitoring the needs of homeless citizens. There will be no evictions for now,” he said. Millions of homeless people and those living in informal settlements across Asia are at heightened risk of contracting the coronavirus due to their dire living conditions, housing experts said on Tuesday.The coronavirus has infected about 180,000 people worldwide and killed more than 7,000, according to a Reuters tally.While the data does not show how many lived in slums, the high density of settlements and meager facilities raises their vulnerability, said Cecilia Tacoli, a researcher at the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development. “Proximity is an important driver of infection, and low-income settlements in many cities of the Global South are very densely populated,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.”Given that new infectious diseases will likely continue to spread rapidly into and within cities, low-income settlements need more effective infrastructure,” she said.Globally, about 1.8 billion people live in inadequate housing and homelessness, according to the United Nations.While handwashing is a basic precaution against the coronavirus, about 40% of the world’s population do not have such a facility with water and soap at home, according to UNICEF, the UN’s children’s fund. Topics :
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