• March 2011
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Retooling Algorithms.

MIT News (02/25/11) Larry Hardesty

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor Charles Leiserson says the best method for rewriting algorithms to run on parallel processors is to use a divide-and-conquer technique, which involves splitting problems into smaller parts to make them easier to solve, allowing the computer to cater an algorithm’s execution to the resources available. However, the divide-and-conquer method does not reveal where or how to divide the problems, which must be answered on a case-by-case basis. The divide-and-conquer strategy also means continually splitting up and recombining data, as it is passed between different cores, which can cause more difficulties, such as data storage. MIT graduate student Tao Benjamin Schardl developed a new method of organizing data, called a bag, which led to a new algorithm for searching data trees that provides linear speedup, often considered the holy grail of parallelization because it can double the efficiency of the algorithm.


Grid Pioneer Ian Foster Discusses the Future of Science in the Cloud

HPC in the Cloud (02/24/11) Rich Wellner

University of Chicago professor Ian Foster, director of the Computation Institute, has a vision to facilitate a transformational change in scientific research, to the point where research capabilities such as massive data and exponentially faster computers become accessible to researchers everywhere. “We need to take the [information technology (IT)] required for research and deliver that IT in a convenient and cost-effective manner, just as Google delivers email and Salesforce.com delivers customer relationship management,” Foster says. He notes that the Globus Alliance has started to move in this direction by concentrating on transferring large volumes of data between locations, bundling this capability into a service called Globus Online. Foster describes Globus Online as “our first foray into what you might call a computational science cloud: Hosted services that let you ‘use the grid’ without installing software.” Foster cites an instance in which an early user employed Globus Online to move data from a single source to 11 sites across the United States as an example of how Globus Online can enhance computing processes. Another goal of Foster’s is making the sharing of files and results with collaborators more intuitive, manageable, and direct in order to eliminate much of the tedium inherent in scientific research.