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Recent Innovation Excellence Award winners

Click the dropdown boxes below to see the most recent HPC User Forum Excellence Awards winners. To view prior years' winners, click here.

9th Round Innovation and ROI Award Winners
Announced at ISC 2016
  • The Centre for Computational Medicine, University of Toronto: From genomics to medical imaging, almost every discipline in health care is dealing with a "Data Deluge". Translating this into something that will ultimately benefit patients requires massive amounts of computation and storage in an environment that is fast, secure, and run with optimal efficiency. The University of Toronto's SickKids Centre for Computational Medicine uses a supercomputer operating at 107 trillion calculations per second to predict the minute differences between individual children to identify the most precise treatment possible for each child under their care.

    Disney Animation Studios,  Frozen: Software engineers used advanced mathematics and physics, with assistance from mathematics researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (and 4,000 computers), to design breathtaking, believable scenes.  Tangled: This film employed a unique artistic style by blending features of computer-generated imagery (CGI) and traditional animation, while using non-photorealistic rendering to create the impression of a painting. Disney developed unique techniques and tools to makes the computer "as pliable as the pencil" to create the ultimate (and most expensive) 3D movie of all time. Big Hero 6: Walt Disney Animation Studios created new software, called Denizen, to create over 700 distinctive characters. Another, called Bonzai, was used to create the city's 250,000 trees, and a new rendering tool, called Hyperion, offered new illumination possibilities. Disney had to assemble a new supercomputing cluster just to handle Hyperion's intense processing demands, which consisted of over 2,300 Linux workstations in four data centers, backed by a central storage system with capacity of five petabytes.

    DreamWorks Animation How to Train Your Dragon: Over the five years before the film's release, DreamWorks Animation overhauled its production workflow and animation software. How to Train Your Dragon 2 was the first DreamWorks Animation film that used "scalable multi-core processing", developed together with Hewlett-Packard. This "next revolution in filmmaking" enabled artists for the first time to work on rich complex images in real time, instead of waiting eight hours to see the results the next day. Programmes named Premo and Torch allowed unique subtlety, improving facial animation and enabling "the sensation of skin moving over muscle instead of masses moving together".. Kung Fu Panda: The computer animation used in this film was more complex than anything DreamWorks had applied before. They found help through the Department of Energy's Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) programme - the company was awarded a grant to refine and test its redesigned software on the leadership-class supercomputer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The prototype software was successfully tested and immediately put to use. Knowledge gained from the INCITE grant informed an entirely new rendering architecture and has become essential in creating all of DreamWorks' animated films. But the biggest win was the raw speed at which those responsible for the film's lighting could get back frames. Iterations were sped up by an order of magnitude - a tenfold savings in total processing time. An iteration that once took hours was now accomplished in mere seconds. Monsters vs. Aliens: It took approximately 45.6 million computing hours to make this film, more than eight times as many as the original Shrek. Several hundred Hewlett-Packard workstations were used, along with a "render farm" of HP ProLiant blade servers with over 9,000 server processor cores to process the animation sequence. Animators used 120 terabytes (TB) of data to complete the film. They used 6 TB for an explosion scene. Since Monsters vs. Aliens, all feature films released by DreamWorks Animation are produced in a stereoscopic 3D format, using Intel's InTru3D technology.

    Fortissimo/Ergolines: Ergolines, an Italian small and medium enterprise (SME), is a world leader in supplying control systems to the steel industry. The focus is mainly on continuous casting, where liquid steel becomes a solid mechanical structure. Simulation of the casting process enables the design of the control systems, which allow steel-casting plans to operate at optimal levels. Without Cloud-based-HPC support, Ergolines would not have the wherewithal to perform the simulations that have led to better control systems with remarkable benefits to customers, workers, and the marketplace, such as lower costs, greater productivity, and improved safety. This was the company's first experience with HPC and its benefits, but early results show that a total savings of up to 670,000 euro per year, per medium-size steel plant, is very achievable.

    KINETICA/United States Postal Service: How does a company that makes daily deliveries to more than 154 million addresses, using several hundred thousand vehicles and employees, improve efficiencies using visualizations and analytics of real-time data? It's called Kinetica, an in-memory GPU accelerated database, and it's how the United States Postal Service (USPS) is optimizing its operations. Faced with the daunting task of managing the nation's postal service, which covers a larger geographical area than any other, with increasingly limited resources, USPS needs to continuously improve safety, efficiency, and services without overspending. The complexities and dynamics of USPS' logistics have reached all-time highs, while consumers have greater demands and more alternative options than ever before; they require sophisticated services like the just-in-time supplies, tracking, and delivery updates, and dynamic shipment routing. Improving end-to-end business process performance while concurrently reducing costs requires the ability to make fast business decisions based on live data. The USPS has accomplished this with Kinetica, optimizing operational efficiencies to save time and money.

    Novartis/Amazon Web Services (AWS)/Cycle Computing: Novartis ran a project that involved virtually screening ten million compounds against a common cancer target in less than a week in 2013. They calculated it would take 50,000 cores and close to a $40 million investment if they wanted to run the experiment internally. Partnering with Cycle Computing and AWS, Novartis built a platform leveraging Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS), and four Availability Zones. The project ran across 10,600 Spot Instances (approximately 87,000 compute cores) and allowed Novartis to conduct 39 years of computational chemistry in nine hours, all for a cost of $4,232. Out of the 10 million compounds screened, three were successfully identified.

    University of Rochester Medical Center: By combining genetics, neurobiology, and supercomputing, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center, New York, identified a genetic mutation responsible for a potentially deadly seizure disorder found in infants and young children. Young people with the condition who survive beyond infancy often struggle for the rest of their lives with developmental disabilities, autism, and uncontrollable seizures. The researchers used a supercomputer cluster to quickly obtain a full genetic profile - more than 20,000 genes - for each study subject and to compare the results with data from other families. These findings opened up what was a "black box", enabling researchers to more fully understand the biological pathways associated with these disorders and why some patients do not respond to treatment.


10th Round HPC Innovation and ROI Award Winners
Announced at SC 2016
  • Robert Wilhelmson and Leigh Orf, University of Wisconsin at Madison: “Unlocking the Mysteries of the Most Violent Tornadoes.” Devastating, long-lived tornadoes are rare, but the death and destruction they cause is significant. This computational project reviewed nearly four years of the researchers’ HPC-based work on this topic, with a strong focus on recent supercell thunderstorm simulations. The researchers presented an overview of the challenges that were overcome in order to simulate and visualize tornadoes, embedded within their parent thunderstorms, at ultra-high spatial and temporal resolution.

    David Ceperley, University of Illinois: “Hydrogen under Extreme Conditions.” Hydrogen accounts for much of the visible mass in the universe. The properties of hydrogen and helium are important for understanding large planets. However, experiments under the relevant conditions are challenging. Dr. Ceperley developed new Quantum Monte Carlo simulation methods to treat such systems and has been using them to study molecular dissociation in liquid hydrogen. After validation, the method can be used with more confidence in modeling the wide variety of observed astrophysical objects composed largely of hydrogen and helium under extreme conditions.

    Gerrit Botha, University of Cape Town: “Custom Genotyping Chip for African Populations.” This computational project aims to produce genomic variant calls for the design of a cost-effective genotyping chip that will capture the genetic diversity in populations of African origin. This ongoing work will enable the identification of genetic variation specific to African populations, which will improve understanding of the links between genotype and disease in people of African origin, and thus extend the principles of personalized medicine to these underserved populations. Contributers include: Adebowale Adeyemo, Zané Lombard, Nicola Mulder, Victor Jongeneel, Liudmila Mainzer, Gloria Rendon, Ayton Meintjes and Sumir Panji. The chip design was contributed to by a bigger team, including Welcome Trust Sanger institute and University of Witwatersrand. Several data providers within the H3Africa consortium also provided samples for the design.

    Ruby Mendenhall et al., University of Illinois: “Rescuing Lost History: Using Big Data to Recover Black Women’s Lived Experiences.” It is often said that history is written by the victors. But it’s probably truer to say it is written by the people who have the opportunity to write. Documents recording the lives of black women are often historically obscure, hidden away in vast library collections and unintentionally misleadingly titled or cataloged. Dr. Mendenhall is leading a collaboration of social scientists, humanities scholars and digital researchers that is harnessing the power of high-performance computing to find and understand the historical experiences of black women by searching two massive databases of written works from the 18th through 20th centuries.


11th Round HPC Innovation and ROI Award Winners
Announced At ISC2017
  • ArcticDEM Project: Responding to Climate Change (National Center for Supercomputing Applications, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Ohio State University, PGC, University of Colorado, Boulder, University of Minnesota). This project is in response to the need for high quality elevation data in remote locations, the availability of technology to process big data, and the need for accurate measurement of topographic change. Data is used to predict sea level rise, coastal erosion, national security, civil engineering, and aircraft safety, along with many, many other science, governmental and commercial applications.

    BP Seismic Imaging Research. BP’s Seismic Imaging Research has delivered major breakthroughs, critical in identifying over one billion additional barrels of reserves at its Gulf of Mexico offshore fields. With HPC, BP is able to test ideas quickly and scale to deliver results.

    Celeste Project: A New Model for Cataloging the Universe (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory). A Berkeley Lab-based research collaboration of astrophysicists, statisticians, and computer scientists is looking to shake things up with Celeste, a new statistical analysis model designed to enhance one of modern astronomy’s most time-tested tools: Sky surveys.

    Studio 100 and M.A.R.K.13  Turning the Famous Maya the Bee Character into a 3-D Film (). The task required calculating each of the CGI-stereoscopic films’ 150,000 images twice – once for the perspective of the left, and once for the right eye. Given the detail-rich nature of the Maya the Bee film, the group averaged two hours per image on a single node — blazing fast in animation terms. Such times couldn’t have been achieved on a standard PC.

    NASA Modular Super Computing Facility Saves Water, Power, Money (NASA). This innovative concept, launched in January 2017, centers around an SGI/HPE supercomputer nicknamed Electra, which combines outdoor air and evaporative cooling to reduce annual water use by 99% and enable a PUE of 1.03. An imminent 28-fold system expansion is expected to save NASA about $35 million per year over alternative strategies.

    NVIDIA Tesla VI00: Tackling Once Impossible Challenges (NVIDIA): NVIDIA’s Tesla V100 substantially advances the firm’s chip density (21 billion transistors in an 815mm2 chip) and is engineered to excel at AI and HPC. With 640 Tensor Cores, V100 boasts 120TF of performance on deep learning applications.

    DOME MicroDataCenter (IBM): This innovation from IBM’s Zurich Research Lab integrates compute, storage, networking, power and cooling in a package that’s up to 20 times denser than today’s typical data center technology. DOME MicroDataCenter has no moving parts, makes no noise, and is small enough for deployment on factory floors, in doctors’ offices, and other novel HPC environments.

    Bright Computing/Microsoft Azure Integration: Function-rich, Easy-to-learn (Bright/Microsoft). Smoothly integrating Bright’s function-rich, easy-to-learn management software into Microsoft’s important Azure public cloud service sets the stage for running a larger spectrum of HPC workloads in a public cloud environment—including support for InfiniBand, heterogeneous CPU-accelerator workloads, and more.

12th Round HPC Innovation and ROI Award Winners
Announced at SC 2017

To view prior years' winners, please click here.