IBM Donates Supercomputer Access for Obama's Climate Data Initiative

Each team of researchers can get 100,000 years' worth of free supercomputing time to help solve issues related to climate change.

Jason Verge

July 29, 2014

3 Min Read
IBM Donates Supercomputer Access for Obama's Climate Data Initiative
The server room in an IBM data center in Boulder, Colorado (Photo: IBM)

IBM has pledged a ton of compute in support of the White House's Climate Data Initiative, announced in March. Eligible scientists studying climate change will be given free access to dedicated virtual supercomputing and a platform to engage the public with their research, the company said Tuesday.

Extreme weather events caused by climate change, such as floods and droughts, can have a drastic impact on food production. This is a move for the greater good on the part of IBM, making sure scientists have the necessary resources to solve problems they are trying to solve. Intel is another high-tech giant that has contributed resources to scientific efforts to tackle the issues humans are faced with using Big Data. Intel is working with California universities on several project aimed at addressing the state's water shortages.

A team working on a project approved for IBM's program will have access to up to 100,000 years of computing time, valued at $60 million. All work will be performed on IBM’s philanthropic World Community Grid platform.  The World Community Grid has already provided sustainability researchers with many millions of dollars of computing power to date. It has been used to facilitate research into clean energy, clean water and healthy foodstuffs, as well as cures for cancer, AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

Some past WCG projects include a partnership with the University of Virginia to study the effects of human activity on the Chesapeake Bay. Harvard’s Clean Energy Project identified more than 35,000 materials with the potential to double carbon-based solar cell efficiency, after screening and publicly cataloging more than 2 million compounds on WCG.

The University of Washington has a project called Nutritious Rice for the World. It modeled rice proteins and predicted their function to help farmers breed new strains with higher yields and greater disease and pest resistance, potentially providing new options for regions facing changing climate conditions.

"Massive computer power is as essential to modern-day scientific research as test tubes and telescopes," said Stanley Litow, IBM vice president for corporate citizenship and corporate affairs. "But due to scarce funding for research, pioneering scientists often don't have access to supercomputers vast enough to meet their research objectives. At IBM, we hope that the equivalent of 100,000 years of computing time per scientist will speed the next major breakthrough to help the world meet the challenge of climate change."

Nearly 3 million computers and mobile devices used by more than 670,000 people, and 460 institutions from 80 countries have contributed power for projects on WCG over the past nine years. Since the program's inception, WCG volunteers have powered more than 20 research projects, donating nearly 1 million years of computing time to scientific research, and enabled important scientific advances in health and sustainability.

“Through his Climate Data Initiative, President Obama is calling for all hands on deck to unleash data and technology in ways that will make businesses and communities more resilient to climate change,” said John Holdren, the president's science advisor. “The commitments being announced today answer that call by empowering the U.S. and global agricultural sectors with the tools and information needed to keep food systems strong and secure in a changing climate.”

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