The Infosys Labs research blog tracks trends in technology with a focus on applied research in Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

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April 25, 2012

Uncomplicating HPC using technology aids

Ok, so we understand that HPC is noteworthy. But if we said parallel computing is complex then achieving HPC is definetely no easy game. The industry offering to simplify HPC is growing and HPC cluster management software is an interesting technology that is doing its bit to ease HPC adoption. To put simply, HPC comes into play when there is typically a cluster of parallel hardware that needs to be used efficiently. And cluster management becomes crucial in order to effectively use and administer the cluster.


Amongst the key players in the HPC cluster management space is Microsoft with its Window HPC Server 2008. This incredibly user-friendly and powerful solution from Microsoft, comprises of a Job Scheduler, MPI support and cluster administration including monitoring facilities for a multicore environment. Built on Windows Server 2008 64-bit OS, HPC Server can efficiently scale to thousands of processing cores, efficiently scheduling jobs on the cluster and providing user-friendly console to monitor and manage this cluster. As a scheduler, it can efficiently schedule jobs by balancing the load based on one of these resources in the HPC cluster:
1) Node wise
2) Port wise
3) Core wise


HPC Server comes as a free add-on to Windows Server 2008 R2 and is very handy to easily bring in HPC for an embarrassingly parallel application that is aiming to leverage the full power of the underlying cluster. But wait, let me clarify. Sequential applications whose operations are embarrassingly parallel can be HPC-enabled by employing HPC Server. When there is an inherent parallelism in a sequential application, it is possible for it to effectively run on a HPC cluster with the help of HPC Server, without having to rewrite it to make it parallel. That's a treat, I must say. I hope you find this as awesome as I do.

April 23, 2012

Is Parallel Computing HPC?

Often times I use parallel computing and High Performance Computing rather loosely, interchanging the two and substituting one for the other. But for the purpose of clearly understanding both of these, it can be stated that if HPC were the end goal then parallel computing is the means. Parallel computing is independent of HPC meaning that the end goal of parallel computing need not be HPC. Parallel computing using supercomputers is typically what is called HPC. But with massively parallel hardware such as the GPUs available commonly, this definition seems to have been diluted a little and colloquially speaking parallel computing and HPC are not distinguished.


HPC is a growing and niche technology area and it is interesting to note that the U.S. government considers this an important technology that will help U.S. businesses, primarily manufacturing, to compete effectively by accelerating innovation. It is interesting to note that Ron Bloom, special assistant for manufacturing to the U.S. President, Mr. Obama, participated in a meeting, organized by the Council on Competitiveness Technology Leadership and Strategy Initiative advisory committee on HPC, to discuss how HPC can help U.S. manufactures to innovate and compete more effectively in the global market. It is with the same enthusiasm that other nations are looking to use HPC for innovation.
HPC needs are definitely growing and here are some of the key drivers for HPC:
• Reduce computation time - There are applications that are so complex that it takes a day to a week to get answers. With changing business dynamics, these applications, which enable key business decisions, would need to be tuned to produce their results in much lesser time for faster decision making. Despite the optimizations it wouldn't be possible to get higher application performance simply because these applications are sequential.
• Real time computations - It is becoming crucial for several core business applications to deliver real time or near real time results. This is simply not possible given the sequential nature of these applications.
• High throughput - Sometimes the need is to be able to get applications do much more within the same time window. Again, unless the application is adapted to parallel hardware it will simply not be possible to deliver high throughput.


HPC is slowly moving mainstream and is seeing adoption in the analytics and business intelligence space and planning and forecasting. As businesses target real time and near real time applications, HPC will become imperative.

April 3, 2012

Google SERP's new 'semantic' feature

Google quietly introduced an exciting feature recently on its SERP (Search Engine Result Pages). The feature is the 'Best Guess' feature. And wonderful it is because it quite appears like Question-answering on common knowledge and general relations.
Google can now tell you names of spouse (of celebrities of course), names of children, ceo's of company, birthday of someone; capital of a country.. and these are not wrapped in documents but picked out and put there as Best Guess on top of the SERP. This is very smart.

Example--
query - Director of Titanic
Best guess for Titanic Director is James Cameron
Mentioned on at least 8 websites including wikipedia.org, imdb.com and answers.com - Show sourcesHide sources - Feedback

children of barack obama
Best guess for Barack Obama Children is Natasha Obama, Malia Ann Obama
Mentioned on about.com - Show sourcesHide sources - Feedback

And it also tells you, where it picked up these guesses from... in the form of 'Mentioned on xx websites including a.com,b.com etc etc'...

This feature is looking quite exciting. It will certainly change the way people search the web and what they expect from the web search engines.

This feature has been around for about an year(and maybe more) but has not garnered a lot of heat yet; may be because the guesses google makes(so far), are really common knowledge and probably does not help an information seeker a lot. Or maybe because information seeker knows the website that gives him guaranteed infortion and does not follow the search engine route to get there. As of now, for me, its more of a play than a smart 'answering' mechanism. But, I am hopeful that this feature will be enriched and more elolved in future.

I put my little thought into how google must be doing this. I thought its doing extraction from socially trusted sources(like Wikipedia) and building a database of important relations. But this is a thought.

Comments welcome!