IBM, Amazon, Microsoft pool computing power to fight coronavirus

Big Tech joins the fight against the coronavirus.

Last week, reports detailed how University of Tennessee researchers are using IBM’s SUMMIT supercomputer to research new COVID-19 treatments. Now, the corporation has announced it will work with the White House to intensify the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The firm and a consortium of Big Tech giants and institutions will combine their processing power to bolster research into the respiratory disease.

How IBM is Taking on the Coronavirus

In a statement, IBM research director Dario Gil outlined his company’s attempts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The executive explained his firm would work with the U.S. Department of Energy and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to launch an initiative called the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium.

IBM also revealed NASA, MIT, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the National Science Foundation, and the Argonne, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Sandia National Laboratories would be part of the organization.

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Together, the group will pool their collective 775,000 CPUs and 34,000 GPUs to harness 330 petaflops of computing power. The consortium intends to utilize its processing might to perform large-scale “epidemiology, bioinformatics, and molecular modeling” calculations. In other words, the organization’s computational capacity will be directed toward finding new treatments or a potential cure for COVID-19.

Gil noted the consortium’s combined resources would allow scientists to expedite experiments that would take months using traditional computing platforms. IBM said it would work with its partners to evaluate proposals from researchers around the globe and distribute supercomputing capacity as needed.

Amazon, Google, and Microsoft’s Coronavirus Responses

Following the publication of IBM’s statement, TechCrunch offered more information on the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium. The site revealed Amazon, Google, and Microsoft would also be part of the new initiative.

Amazon is joining the fight by giving scientists access to its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud platform to further coronavirus treatment and vaccine research. Earlier this month, the e-commerce giant announced it would dedicate $20 million to help develop new COVID-19 diagnostic solutions.

“We’re proud to support this critical work and stand ready with the compute power of AWS to help accelerate research and development efforts,” said AWS Worldwide Public Sector vice president Teresa Carlson.

Similarly, Google Public Sector vice president Mike Daniels noted his firm is eager to fight against the coronavirus by applying its cloud computing resources “toward the development of potential treatments and vaccines.”

For its part, Microsoft is opening up its Azure Cloud platform to scientists who are investigating the disease. The firm will also let its data science experts team with clinicians to advance their coronavirus research projects. “We want to make sure researchers working to combat COVID-19 have access to the tools they need,” noted Microsoft Global AI for Health lead John Kahan.

Traditionally, medical science needs months, if not years, to find viable treatments for new diseases. Hopefully, the tech industry’s efforts to speed up the process will lessen the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.


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