On Tuesday, November 20th 2018, in the Donald Smitzaal of the Center for Information Technology, we held the 2nd Annual Peregrine User Group Meeting. About 30 Peregrine users from across the University were treated to presentations from three of their fellow users on the work they are doing with Peregrine, an update on the status and future plans for Peregrine and a keynote presentation on Neuromorphic Computing.
After some brief introductory remarks, the first presentation was given by William Pearson, Astronomy, FSE (not that William Pearson). William is using Peregrine to study galaxy evolution by analyzing far-infrared images provided by the Herschel telescope. Before being analyzed, these images need to be de-blended, which takes on the order of 50 000 CPU hours. On Peregrine, William can do this in about a week.
The second presenter was Joana Saldida, Molecular Systems Biology, FSE, who gave a talk on her research topic of metabolic flux analysis with a thermodynamic model and 13C. The simulation is a mixture of optimization and sampling, for which Joana uses a specialized software, GAMS, and MATLAB. Sometimes there are issues with MATLAB licenses, but these can be circumvented by compiling the MATLAB code. Joana was also kind enough to give us a few suggestions for improvement, such as having monthly walk-in sessions, and providing a JupyterHub on Peregrine.
Thirdly, Michiel uit het Broek, Operations Research & Management Science, FEB, presented his work on optimizing maintenance of offshore wind-farms from the perspective of technician allocation and routing. The goal is to reduce the cost of maintaining wind-farms, and thus reduce the price of this renewable energy source. The optimization strategy that Michiel uses is to generate an initial solution and then iteratively improve it by incrementally rewiring the connections in the network. An eminently parallelizable approach, this reduces the running time from almost two decades on a single core, to a few days on Peregrine.
An update on the status of Peregrine since the last User Group Meeting, as well as some plans for the future, were presented by Fokke Dijkstra from the HPC Team. Fokke outlined the new GELIFES extension to Peregrine, which provides extra computational power to Peregrine users that belong to the GELIFES institute, and which opened at the end of October. The GPU extension, which has been in the works for more than a year is finally becoming a reality, though as part of the RUGCloud, which will give users much more bang for the buck, by sharing costs. We expect delivery in January and will start installation soon thereafter. There were a few more items in the plan, which you can read about in our next newsletter.
The keynote presentation concluded the “official” part of the meeting, and was given by Niels Taatgen, AI/CogniGron, FSE. Niels’ topic was neuromorphic computing and what it can do for the future of computing and AI. Neuromorphic computing is a computing paradigm that looks at the human brain for inspiration, with it’s low power consumption and massive parallelism. Niels gave us a very clear introduction into this fascinating field, which, for some of us at least, was completely new. The FSE has also recently opened a new institute, CogniGron, where researchers from several disciplines work on designing and building new materials with intrinsic cognitive functionality, and integrating them into neuromorphic computational devices.
We ended the afternoon with some interesting and hopefully useful discussions over drinks and snacks. As in the previous year’s meeting, it was nice to meet face-to-face with Peregrine users and hear in person their ideas on how we can improve their work on the cluster. We look forward to an equally successful meeting next year!"
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