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HPE's Peter Ungaro: HPC 'More Critical Than Ever' With COVID-19

'As a company, we're super proud that our technology and our teams are being called in to help organizations power the scientific breakthroughs that we need to fight against COVID-19,' HPE executive Peter Ungaro says of the vendor's COVID-19 research work.

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HPE Is Using Its $1.3 Billion Cray Acquisition To Support COVID-19 Research

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is arming COVID-19 researchers with the high-performance computing and artificial intelligence capabilities necessary to make scientific breakthroughs on new treatments and vaccines — two fields that are "more critical than ever," according to the vendor's top HPC executive.

Through its $1.3 billion acquisition of Cray in 2019, the San Jose, Calif.-based server vendor is supporting COVID-19 researchers across the world with existing deployments, including the Theta supercomputer at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and the Jean Zay supercomputer at France's National Center for Scientific Research.

[Related: How Penguin Computing Is Fighting COVID-19 With Hybrid HPC ]

In an interview with CRN, Peter Ungaro, former CEO of Cray and senior vice president of HPE's HPC and mission critical solutions, said the company is supporting these existing systems and helping other customers expand their capabilities for the purpose of accelerating COVID-19 research.

"As a company, we're super proud that our technology and our teams are being called in to help organizations power the scientific breakthroughs that we need to fight against COVID-19," he said. "It's a great example of what you can do inside of a company that doesn't have much to do with the day-to-day business of the company but really shows how you can take the resources of a large organization like HPE and use it [for good]."

Ungaro said HPE systems have already shown promising results in speeding up the time it takes to identify potential antibodies that can attack the novel coronavirus. Using the Catalyst HPC cluster at the DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, researchers have already narrowed down the number of potential antibody candidates from 10 to the 40th power, a number with 41 decimal digits, to 20 — something that would have taken years using other approaches.

Scientific work like that could be done even quicker with the three exascale supercomputers HPE is providing to DOE laboratories over the next few years, according to Ungaro, which he said underlines the importance of the continued investment that the U.S. and other countries are making in next-generation HPC and AI capabilities.

"It's really showing that HPC and AI — the technologies that are going to be leveraged in these large exascale machines — are more critical than ever," he said. "If we had these exascale systems already installed and ready to go today, just think of how much faster the progress would be."

In his interview, Ungaro talked about the different ways HPC is having an impact on COVID-19 research, how the pandemic is impacting the overall market, to what extent research opportunities are creating a new for new systems and upgrades, the importance of channel partners in deploying and supporting new systems and how HPC differs from traditional data center workloads.


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