Inside Extreme Scale Tech|Sunday, December 28, 2014
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How the Cloud Will Help the U.S. Regain Manufacturing Prowess 

There are still tremendous opportunities for digital manufacturers to participate in the Cloud and Autonomic Computing Center at Texas Tech University (CAC@TTU).

In my last column, I wrote about how the CAC@TTU was opening its doors on the campus of Texas Tech in Lubbock with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Since that time, I attended the kickoff meeting in May and remain convinced that participation in the new Center will propel individual digital manufacturers up the value chain while helping the United States regain its global leadership in manufacturing.

A Quick Recap

NSF is funding a series of industry-academia-government partnership centers through its Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers (I/UCRC) program mainly to help boost the performance of U.S. enterprises in high-tech sectors. A major objective is to promote industrial consumption of cloud computing capabilities and their implementation by developing standards and security protocols.

Five centers have been created as a result, with CAC@TTU focusing on cloud standards, best practices and security protocols in high performance computing in the cloud (HPC Cloud) technology. The Center already exists in Lubbock with impressive HPC facilities available to member organizations. CAC@TTU member organizations gain access not just to the TTU facilities but to the projects and activities at all five centers.

Following the kick-off meeting, Dr. Ravi Vadapalli, a CAC@TTU Principal and Research Scientist at TTU, summarized how the center will benefit its members: “The purpose of the CAC@TTU is to help its industry members accelerate adoption of cloud methods, standards, and services for business development and optimization, technology transfer, and commercialization opportunities.”

Dr. Vadapalli outlined three broad goals for the center as well:

  • Identify and foster industry-academia-government partnerships on topics related to current and emerging cloud standards that could potentially enhance business value,
  • Prototype test-bed implementations of cloud-enabled solutions for application verticals that showcase benefits of cloud computing in industry, and
  • Create a trained workforce that can relate their domain expertise through advanced distributed computing to create commercially viable products.

Notice how each goal places an emphasis on business, industry and commercial viability.

“For industries, the proposed efforts help translate ideas into business value and commercial products, access to intellectual property, patents, and publications, recruitment opportunities and spin-off initiatives leading to new partnerships and customers,” explained Vadapalli.

The Kick-Off Meeting

The first meeting was attended by about 28 representatives from more than a dozen private sector industries as diverse as aerospace, energy, banking, health care, visualization, supercomputing, networking and retail. I attended as a representative of the Society of HPC Professionals, but I see my personal role in the center expanding beyond the society.

Although the meeting was conducted to introduce potential members to the Center, participants set to work right away. TTU had prepared concepts for projects the Center might initiate within the year to get members involved immediately in using the Cloud and Autonomic Computing facilities in Lubbock. As a group, we evaluated and prioritized 10 of the 15 ideas presented.

The results of the evaluation will be announced at another meeting this fall. The ideas were well thought-out and placed a premium on finding new ways to get industry involved in HPC technology.

For example, a major oil company has approached CAC@TTU with a new idea for applying HPC cloud technology to petroleum engineering studies. The ultimate goal of the project is to create a new product that can be sold to oil-field services companies. An important aspect of the concept is to engage TTU petroleum engineering students in the project.

“Students participating in such a project will leave TTU with HPC experience that is superior to their peers, and they will have already had direct contact with key companies in the petroleum industry,” said Vadapalli.

Another project that received enthusiastic response from the meeting participants was presented by Vadapalli himself. The idea is to apply HPC power to healthcare radiology so that doctors can have real-time feedback showing the impact that a specific treatment is having on cancer patients.

A third recommendation that seemed to garner broad support was the idea of setting up a standards clearinghouse that would interact with other HPC facilities participating in the NSF I/UCRC program. From my perspective, this could be the most important activity the CAC@TTU ever engages in, and it could be the most beneficial to digital manufacturers.

Why Should You Get Involved?

Establishing standards will democratize HPC technology, making it more readily usable to many businesses across a spectrum of industries. This is important to digital manufacturers because by the very nature of their work, they interact with a diverse customer base in many different sectors. Standardization will make it easier for one digital manufacturer to serve many end users at a higher level of quality and productivity.

In short, HPC cloud standards could move digital manufacturers up the value chain very quickly. But standards and best practices won’t be adopted that relate specifically to manufacturing unless you get involved. It’s not too late to become a member of the CAC@TTU. If you engage now, you will immediately begin working on practical processes using the latest HPC technology with the help of the sharpest minds in the field. Dr. Vadapalli points out that adoption of HPC cloud technology for manufacturing is inevitable. It’s just a matter of how much influence manufacturers will have in the progress.

“With the federal government supporting cloud technology, it is the future of high performance computing,” said Vadapalli. “Engagement in CAC@TTU is part of the process of helping the United States recapture its lead in advanced manufacturing.”

Visit http://cac.hpcc.ttu.edu/~cac/.

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