Posts Tagged 'Science'

February 9, 2015

Eradicating Ebola with Grid Computing Linked by the SoftLayer Network

On September 30, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control confirmed the first case of Ebola in the U.S. Although not uncommon to hear of outbreaks in other parts of the world, this first case in the U.S. just happened to be in our own headquarters’ backyard—Dallas.

IBM jumped at the opportunity to help find a cure or at least a treatment for the virus, not necessarily because SoftLayer happened to be in the “storm’s eye,” but as Stanley S. Litow, IBM’s vice president of Corporate Citizenship and president of the IBM International Foundation said, “It is a privilege to partner with The Scripps Research Institute to advance the process of identifying an Ebola cure.”

But finding a cure is difficult. The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), an independent, not-for-profit organization has been researching Ebola for the past 11 years. Dr. Erica Ollmann Saphire, says, “We’ve solved the structures that explain what the surface of Ebola virus looks like, how it attaches to and drives itself into cells, and how it behaves like a wolf in sheep’s clothing in hiding itself from an immune response.” [Read more on the research.] Finding a cure could take hundreds of years of computing time—not manpower. And now that more people are more mobile, it is vital to find a cure since the disease can easily spread over vast distances and quickly escalate into an epidemic.

The Technology Behind The Science

IBM’s philanthropic division, Corporate Citizenship, created World Community Grid in 2004 as a way for individuals to donate their spare processing power from their personal computers, tablets, and mobile phones when not in use. The World Community Grid is utilizing grid computing for researchers, like TSRI, to accelerate their research by breaking the research into millions of little tasks. When a device is not in use, it downloads one of these tasks, calculates, and then sends it back to the researchers when complete. Instead of utilizing one super computer, researchers harness the power of a virtual super computer. This collection of computing power is all connected via the SoftLayer network.

After the Ebola outbreak last fall, the number of infections increased steadily until last week. Officials link the increase to emergency funds for containing the disease in West Africa starting to run out. We may not see Ebola cured overnight, but thanks to grid computing and the efforts of scientists and individuals donating their idle computing power resources, hopefully treatments and vaccinations for this disease and many other diseases can be developed sooner.


October 15, 2011

Lower Latency: Neutrino Network?

SoftLayer is on the "bleeding edge" of technology, and that's right where I'm comfortable. I love being a part of something new and relevant. I also love science fiction and find that it's mixing together with reality more and more these days. Yay for me and my nerdyness! Beam me up Luke Skywalker! (I wonder how many nerds cringed at that statement!)

In a recent post from New Scientist, a test showed neutrino particles being clocked faster than the speed of light, and a dimension-hop might be the reason. Rather than go into the nerdy parts of the article that I'm sure you read before continuing to this sentence, I want to compare how SoftLayer would use this to our (and more importantly our customers') advantage: A neutrino network! We could have the fastest network in the world, and we could use the technology for faster motherboards and components too. Because that's how we roll.

BanzaiEnter science fiction. Let's say neutrinos were indeed using another dimension to travel. Like, say, the 8th dimension as referred to in "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension." This dimension also happens to be a prison used by the Lectroids of Planet 10 to store criminals. Go figure, right? Obstacles always come up, so if our neutrino network was targeted by those Lectroids, Dody Lira and the abuse team would have no problems taking them down ... After all, Lectroid's fiddling with data can be bad for business (Not to mention the possibility of Lectroid's using our network to come back to this dimension, wreak havoc, and eat all our junk food). Dody would have to upgrade some of the tools his team uses, like a Jet Car with an "Oscillation Overthruster" (which looks eerily similar to the Flux Capacitor) to travel in and out of the 8th dimension to hunt down those pesky Lectroids that won't comply.

Then, after Dody and crew wrangle the Lectroids (as I'm sure they would), we could offer the Lectroids email and Internet service. Bam! More customers on top of a supernatural network!

Coming back to reality (a bit), we have an interesting world ahead of us. Technologies we have only seen in movies and some we haven't even imagined yet are becoming reality! If they fall into the usable realm of SoftLayer, you can bet we'll be one of the first to share them with the world. But not before we get all the bugs (and Lectroids) out.


October 14, 2011

Incubators - Beyond Middle School Science Class

The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the word "incubator" is my middle school science class. I can't remember if we did a project or just read about it, but I am positive it was a point of focus for way too long. We learn about incubators as containers in which environmental conditions may be controlled and maintained to provide a suitable place for growth. In my middle school science class, incubators helped eggs embryos grow, develop and eventually hatch. When I heard the term getting thrown around in our offices, I was pretty confused.

As it turns out, incubators programs like Tech Wildcatters and TechStars do the same thing ... only with startups (and fewer egg shells).

As Paul mentioned in Fueling Startups with TechStars, TechStars has a series on Bloomberg TV that follows a few startups in TechStars New York from the application stage through their 3 month program and Demo Day. While I understood the basic premise of the incubator programs, seeing the way they documented it was like a crash course ... So much so that when I talk about it with family and friends (and see their confused faces), I just pull up the first episode:

Just like a science class incubator that provides an egg with light, movement and an environment to mimic conditions required for growth, startup incubators give young businesses seed money, opportunities to pitch businesses to investors, and access to mentors and sponsors who are all there to provide support. In the short program term, the companies get exposure, guidance about funding and access to every other service a they could need to succeed. Piecing together that experience outside of the dedicated incubator environment would require a lot more time, effort and capital.

These incubator organizations are also referred to as startup accelerators, and they're like a golden ticket to entrepreneurial success ... And that's why it's so difficult for a startup to get accepted to participate in one of them. The value a startup brings to the table is not just in the idea; it's also in the people behind the idea.

Recently, I attended the kick-off party for the new class of Tech Wildcatters startups, and I got a chance to meet some of these passionate startup owners. Their energy is contagious. My first-hand experience immediately reinforced to my why SoftLayer is so interested in helping foster companies that could redefine and reinvent the future.

All of these comparisons between about incubators and eggs have made me pretty hungry ... If you need me, I'll be down the street getting an omelet.


September 13, 2007

Ultrasonic Wave Propagation Through Particulate Composites

That is a heck of a strange title for a hosting company blog post.

It was, however, a great title for a Master's thesis. Bear with me though and I'll put it together.

Once upon a time, I spent many a day (evening, night, whatever) in the basement of the Bright building at Texas A&M blasting ultrasonic waves at samples of composite materials and measuring the energy output on the other side. What we found was that if you hit the right frequency that made the little particles resonate, then a lot more energy was transmitted through the material1. But sending a lot of energy at the wrong frequency didn't do any good at all and most of the energy was absorbed. After a while, using the experimental data, we learned how to predict what frequencies transmitted the most energy.

Developing projects for a hosting company is pretty much the same. You can spend a lot of energy writing code and developing products, but if you don't produce something that resonates with the customer, no matter how much energy you put into it, you aren't going to get the results out of the other side. Having been in software development in the hosting industry for quite a while now, I have worked on projects that resonated with customers and a unfortunately on a few that didn't. The trick is to collect enough data before you start by using a mix of experience and customer interaction to predict what will resonate, and what won't.

See, I brought it all together and I get to tell myself that I still use my master's degree.


1I way oversimplfied this. My apologies to Dr. V. Kinra.

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