Scientists Accelerate Research and Insight with
Accessible, High-Performance Computing Environment
Overview ―Scientists find it easy to develop using Visual Studio 2005 and
Country or Region: United Kingdom Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003. Even students who come Industry: Life sciences
from a Linux background and are using Microsoft developer tools
Customer Profile for the first time are finding the change to be positive.‖ The Northwest Institute for BioHealth Informatics
(NIBHI) is based at the University of Manchester Iain Buchan, Director, Northwest Institute for BioHealth Informatics, University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. The group’s primary focus is to develop methods and e-infrastructure Scientists at the Northwest Institute for BioHealth Informatics for population-based studies. (NIBHI) at the University of Manchester study the effects of
Business Situation molecular, personal and community factors on common diseases. Scientists used a Linux-based high-performance This includes large volumes of genetic data and requires high-computing solution, which was difficult to
operate. Research was restricted because performance computing (HPC) to handle complex calculations. The specialist IT skills were needed to use the Linux-institute previously used Linux, but new users and those who based system.
needed to develop software, found the technology difficult to Solution operate. Working with Microsoft? Services, NIBHI developed a proof Working with Microsoft? Services, NIBHI
developed a proof of concept for a high-of concept for an HPC environment based on Windows? Compute performance computing environment based on Cluster Server 2003. Now, researchers can reduce the time they Windows? Compute Cluster Server 2003.
spend on developing applications, which allows them to focus on Benefits biomedical rather than computer science. NIBHI can invest more ; Scientists concentrate on science.
; Fewer specialist skills needed for operation. time and budget on research, ultimately helping the scientific ; Integrated environment aids collaboration. community to progress understanding of health and healthcare. ; Accelerates future research.
Situation help them acquire skills and create new results Scientists at the Northwest Institute for fast.‖
BioHealth Informatics (NIBHI), based at the
University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, The need to collaborate with the National Health use high-performance computing (HPC) to Service (NHS) and other universities prompted analyse vast quantities of biological, clinical and the institute to look for an interoperable HPC population health data. They need to environment that allowed users to integrate understand the effects of molecular, personal results created in different research and community factors on common health environments.
problems, such as obesity and type two diabetes.
Supercomputers are critical for such Buchan and his team worked closely with groundbreaking research. They make it possible Microsoft? Services to develop a proof of for scientists to find new ways to sift through concept for a Windows?-based HPC
combinations of factors to generate new insights. environment developed on Windows Compute With new genomic data sources, typically Cluster Server 2003. The environment is made providing a million different pieces of genetic up of the Windows Server 2003 Compute information on each individual studied, there are Cluster Edition operating system, which is fully too many possible combinations of factors to compatible with Windows Server 2003, and the analyse in conventional ways. A combination of Microsoft Compute Cluster Pack. This contains supercomputing and the development of new management, deployment, and installation tools. analytical methods is required to tackle this
science. However, the scientists at NIBHI Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, running needed to re-program their Linux for HPC with on powerful 64-bit processors, automatically each new experiment. This required extensive schedules and queues calculations. It runs tasks developer knowledge and consequently they so quickly that researchers can start spent much of their time developing code, which programming new sequences immediately absorbed valuable time that could be spent instead of having to wait days for results. thinking about the underlying statistical and
genomic problems. Windows Workflow Foundation is a
programming component supported by the Iain Buchan is the Director of the Northwest Microsoft Visual Studio? 2005 development tool. Institute for BioHealth Informatics at the Part of the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0, University of Manchester. He explains: ―NIBHI Windows Workflow Foundation helps scientists needs to develop analytical tools for genomic design their own system workflows for specific medical research, and make them easy for a research needs. ―We plan to use workflow variety of researchers to use. What we were technologies a great deal, and look forward to looking for in an HPC technology was rapid exploring Windows Workflow features further,‖
development and easy maintenance. The Linux says Buchan. ―Around 90 per cent of our clustered computing tools required specialist scientists already use a Windows environment, knowledge, from setup of the operating system, so the tools are familiar, making adoption through to software development and job easier.‖
submission. This meant that Linux did not meet
our requirement for a flexible and intuitive HPC By running a proof of concept alongside the technology route. We can’t afford to depend on existing Linux system, Buchan identified the key technologies that only some of the team are differences for developers and IT administrators. familiar with. Today’s scientists need tools to Traditionally, computer clusters require highly-
skilled management to combine information biological data, such as human DNA, using from several hardware sources. In contrast, hundreds of thousands of pieces of information Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 is an about each patient. A particularly challenging integrated solution, which offers familiar type of analysis is to work out how multiple development tools to simplify deployment and genetic factors interact to cause disease. To do configuration. It uses the institute’s existing this, researchers need to run calculations that Active Directory? directory services and hit the current limits of computing and statistical Microsoft Management Console 3.0 to theory. But with Windows Compute Cluster streamline user management and security, while Server 2003, researchers need fewer technical Windows Server Update Services provides skills. ―This technology takes the pressure off software updates to ensure critical systems are scientists to be software engineers,‖ says secure. Buchan.
Researchers can draw on their existing Researchers can also accomplish more. Windows-based skills to quickly adapt to the Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 makes it new software. ―Scientists find it easy to develop easier for them to incorporate existing results using Visual Studio 2005 and Windows into their calculations because algorithms can Compute Cluster Server 2003,‖ says Buchan. be made available as Web services. ―You can ―Even students who come from a Linux set up a new job using data and configuration background and are using Microsoft developer information from experiments that have already tools for the first time are finding the change to been run,‖ Buchan says. ―It’s easier and faster be positive.‖ than creating another experiment from scratch.‖
Microsoft Services has also helped the NIBHI Cost-Effective System Performs Complex team to use a Web portal to access their HPC—Research
by integrating Microsoft Office SharePoint? Supercomputers need no longer be colossal Server 2007 with Windows Compute Cluster systems that cost hundreds of thousands of Server 2003. This gives scientists a central pounds to acquire and deploy. Windows-based place to present information such as HPC makes supercomputing accessible on many calculations, generate workflows, collaborate, levels. Firstly, the cost of acquiring the hardware and share information with other researchers. is comparable with that of a new desktop
environment. Windows Compute Cluster Server Benefits 2003 supports faster processing of complex Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 is calculations on cost-effective, industry standard transforming HPC with systems that are easier 64-bit processors. Once rolled out, automation to use and manage. At NIBHI, researchers have of time-consuming tasks—such as user
demonstrated how the technology supports authentication and security policies—helps to
them in creating new processes easily. This minimise administration time and cut costs, means scientists can accelerate research meaning more time and funding for critical projects and spend more time working together research.
to discover and shape the future of their
research. For NIBHI administrators, consistent system
administration and minimal training will also Supporting Critical Scientific Discovery contribute to a streamlined, cost-efficient To make significant developments in areas such environment. Administrators don’t need to learn
as brain imaging or genomic epidemiology, complex Linux commands to take advantage of
researchers must test large quantities of HPC clusters. The organisation can reduce the
expense of hiring specialists or training Buchan is confident that this HPC environment
scientists to be software writers themselves. will support his team’s ongoing work. ―The
technology is an investment in researcher
Advancing Science with Integration and productivity and scientific advancement,‖ he
Collaboration says: ―We expect that all of our researchers will
Researchers need to share scientific information be able to use the technology easily, with their colleagues in reports and accelerating research and adding value to the
presentations. Windows Compute Cluster Server work of others.‖
2003 gives them the tools to perform intensive
analysis and modelling in a single environment. This integrates with Linux applications, so the team can compare data without needing to switch between Linux and Windows. ―The HPC system makes the calculations that have been perfected by an otherwise remote team, easy to share with collaborators who enrich the
interpretation of the results. So, as the team expands to include scientists and specialists from different organisations, researchers will be able to integrate their work,‖ says Buchan.
Collaborating on research is crucial for NIBHI scientists to advance their knowledge so that the industry can better understand the cause of common diseases and find new ways to prevent their spread. Buchan says: ―The Office
SharePoint Server 2007 site will also help researchers share their work with a wider group of disease specialists, including research-active physicians. It will make it easier for researchers to build on their colleagues’ research and generate richer academic insight and discovery.‖
Investing in the Future of Health
Microsoft technology opens up numerous
possibilities for the scientific community, which has, until recently, been restricted by the complexities and costs of HPC. Windows
Compute Cluster Server 2003 makes powerful systems that support ground-breaking research, more accessible.
Microsoft will continue to provide additional support for research and technology at NIBHI over the next three years. And although the
project is still in its early stages at NIBHI,
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For more information about the Northwest
Institute for BioHealth Informatics at the
University of Manchester, visit the Web site
Software and Services ; Technologies
; Microsoft Server Product Portfolio ? Microsoft Visual Studio 2005
? Microsoft Office SharePoint Server ? Microsoft Management Console 3.0
2007 ? Active Directory
? Windows Compute Cluster Server
This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS ; Technologies SUMMARY. – Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0 Document published October 2007