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Why HPC Matters: Making the World a Safer Place

Fueled by the power of high-performance computing systems, machine learning is helping national security agencies and researchers mine data to identify security threats.

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In today’s data-driven world, our national security increasingly depends on high-performance computing systems and machine learning technologies that churn through massive amounts of data to identify potential threats, even in real time.

Just consider this example from a trio of experts writing in The Washington Post: “Big data is a ‘big deal’ for U.S. spy agencies, which have long relied on multiple data sources to produce intelligence reports,” the paper noted in a 2017 article. “In the past decade, agencies like the CIA and the NSA have institutionalized big data through the development of dedicated analytics units and research and development projects focusing on the analysis of online data such as YouTube videos and social media posts.”1

In this article, the authors outlined five ways in which data analytics systems support national security decisions:

  • Anomaly detection identifies items, events or observations that don’t conform to an expected behavior or pattern.
  • Association mining algorithms discover interesting relationships and patterns hidden in large data sets.
  • Classification algorithms assign objects in a collection of data to target categories or classes.
  • Link analysis helps in defining, discovering and evaluating relationships between objects and data points.
  • Machine learning algorithms independently adapt and learn from the data they process, and synthesize newly appearing information.

Let’s take a case in point. Today, the Army Research Lab and Fayetteville State University (FSU) are advancing AI research by developing new artificial neural network architectures for security and defense applications. The goal is to build a computer system that can analyze text and video data and send alerts when anomalies are detected, without the need for human intervention.

Under this research program, machines are trained to perform tasks that require human levels of cognitive intelligence. With that goal in mind, computer and data scientists at FSU are teaching machines how to recognize images and video features associated with textual data.

To facilitate the research, FSU chose a Dell EMC Ready Solution for HPC. This pre-configured solution includes an optimized cluster of Dell EMC PowerEdge™ servers. A Dell EMC PowerEdge R730xd server acts as the head node and is supported by Dell EMC PowerEdge C4130 servers optimized for GPUs and co-processors.

The cluster is managed by Bright Cluster Manager software. It offers a simple, point-and-click graphical user interface for administering the cluster as a single entity and provisioning the hardware, operating system and workload manager. This unified approach makes it easier to build a reliable cluster, monitor every node, and report software or hardware problems so administrators can keep the cluster healthy and its users productive — as everyone pushes forward on the path to stronger national security.

Sambit Bhattacharya, Ph.D., professor of computer science at FSU, says the solution has delivered “clear productivity improvements,” allowing researchers to do what they do best — analyze more data to advance the capabilities of artificial intelligence and make the world a safer place.

In this sense, AI is now a powerful defensive weapon that is helping the United States and other nations protect themselves from current and emerging threats. In the words of a report from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs: “As with prior transformative military technologies, the national security implications of AI will be revolutionary, not merely different.”2

Ultimately, that’s what this all comes down to — revolutionary new approaches to protecting national security. That’s the power of data analytics and AI systems that are fueled by HPC clusters — and that’s another reason why HPC matters.

For a closer look at technologies used to create the HPC and data analytics solutions that underpin successful AI, machine and deep learning implementations, visit the Dell EMC Pushing the Boundaries of AI site.

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Making a difference with HPC

High performance computing touches virtually every aspect of our lives. HPC is making weather forecasts more accurate, cancer therapies more precise, fraud protection more foolproof and products more efficient. In this series of articles, we explore these and other use cases that capitalize on HPC and its convergence with data analytics to illustrate why HPC matters to all of us.

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[1] Damien Van Puyvelde, Shahriar Hossain and Stephen Coulthart, The Washington Post, “National security relies more and more on big data. Here’s why,” September 27, 2017.

2 Greg Allen and Taniel Chan, “Artificial Intelligence and National Security” paper, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, July 2017.