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GCN : February 2014
CASE STUDY HIGH PERFORMANCE COMPUTING Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is taking advantage of federally funded research into topological data analysis (TDA) to find new ways of extracting and using information from data sets too large and complex to yield to traditional analytic tech- niques. The lab is collaborating with Ayasdi Inc., a commercial spin- off from research at Stanford University funded through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Nation- al Science Foundation. Ayasdi s Insight Discovery platform is a software suite already being used by private- and public-sec- tor organizations, including the intelligence community, to glean insights from large and varied data collections. "Big data challenges are a part of our mission," said Anantha Krishnan, director of the lab s Office of Mission Innovation. The lab uses high-perfor- mance computing for modeling and simulation in areas of en- ergy, climate change, biological defense and national security. "For many years the lab has had to rely on homegrown technol- ogy," Krishnan said. "We have developed our own set of data analysis tools and modeling and simulation tools." But the lab also is looking at commercial tools that have emerged as big data has become a mainstream subject in IT. "Our sense is that topological data analysis could be a big contribu- tor to the things we do," Krish- nan said. Topology is a branch of math- ematics dating to the 18th century that studies shapes. In the 21st century it has been expanded to apply to problems beyond physical shapes and sur- faces to include the very large and high-dimensional data sets that constitute what is called big data. Data has shape, and shape has meaning, said Krishnan. The lab s work with Ayasdi, an- nounced in November, is an ef- fort to extract that meaning. "We are going through the evaluation phase now," said Krishnan. "Our hope is that in the next few months the value will become clear." The chal- lenge in working with big data is not just volume. Big data is more than small data made large, said Ben Mann, Ayasdi s vice presi- dent of federal operations. "Big data, done right, is completely different." HOW IT WORKS Traditional topology assumes Research by Lawrence Livermore scientists into new tools for modeling the underlying itopology of big data points to a future of 'query-free' analytics Big data: the shape of things to come BY WILLIAM JACKSON 26 GCN FEBRUARY 2014 • GCN.COM Using TDA, data points from complex data sets can be put into a multidimensional framework. Users can then identify patterns and anomalies based on the distances of the points from each other.