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
“People fall out of tree stands, you would not believe it. Experienced hunters, turkey hunters shoot each other. It’s things that we pick up on and we tell them there’s certain things they can do to prevent incidents,” said Hektor. It’s typically offered in-person, but because of the coronavirus, it’s now being offered online. Hektor says those field lessons are important for one reason. “When we have the training here we do field work. We actually take the students out to the fire range, as you can hear in the background, and we let them shoot state guns,” said Hektor. Hektor says there are things he teaches his students hands-on during a typical eight hour course. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation says the course will be available online until June 30. For example, loading your vehicle with your firearm or crossing a fence with your firearm. “Most of the instructors are old like myself. My father who is 96 and has been an instructor for 73 years. So we pass on our experiences to the new students,” he said. The online course cost $19.95, a new fee put in place by the software developer, which isn’t required for the in-person classes. “Safety. Our number one concern is safety for the hunter in the field,” he said. Hektor also says the instructors teaching the in-person classes have years of knowledge. Having an instructor in the same room allows them to share some real-life experiences. “We are volunteers, we don’t get paid, the DEC doesn’t get paid, the only money they get paid from is when you go to get their license,” said Broome County hunter safety coordinator Alan Hektor. (WBNG) — The New York Hunter Education course is required to purchase a hunter license in the state. While the online class is convenient, hunting officials are voicing concerns about the course being offered in the non-traditional way. For more information on how to sign up, click here.
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