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August 15, 2016

Life Sciences Cultivate Streaming Analytics


Transatlantic partners are applying machine-learning algorithms to a financial HPC platform to develop predictive models for studying crop growth patterns and agriculture practices. The partners said the models would include variables such as crop response and adaptation to environmental stresses.

The U.K.’s Earlham Institute said Monday (Aug. 15) it would work with Kx Systems, a provider of high performance, in-memory computing, streaming analytics and operational intelligence. Kx Systems based on Palo Alto, Calif., specializes in time-series analytics applications for helping the financial sector handle exploding data volumes along with regulatory compliance.

Earlham Institute said it would leverage the Kx platform as a new approach to analytical processing to life sciences. “In an environment where the need to process increasing volumes of data at ever-greater speeds has been failed by the traditional query-response model, Kx will provide real-time active queries for the enormous datasets generated in life sciences,” project leader Ji Zhou noted in a statement announcing the partnership.

The research institute added that big data challenges posed by genetics, genomics and phenomics—the measurement of the physical and biochemical traits of organisms—life scientists are increasingly relying on stream data processing and in-memory computing.

The life sciences research institute based in Norwich, England, is part of a larger U.K. effort to apply Internet of Things technologies to agriculture. That initiative includes using remote sensor networks and the big data they generate to study crop development and for genetic research. The goals of the agricultural IoT include maximizing crop yields, improving food “traceability,” that is, tracking food through the production, processing and distribution phases. Another aim is using the ability to analyze real-time datasets to address the agricultural consequences of climate change, researchers said.

Earlham Institute already hosts a world-class HPC infrastructure that supports its life sciences research. The partners said the application of real-time analytical capabilities promised to advance “research [into] genotype-phenotype-environment interactions.”

The research institute serves as a U.K. hub for bioinformatics, including a state-of-the-art DNA sequencing facility. It also hosts one of the largest computing centers in Europe dedicated to life sciences research. Elsewhere, the U.K.-based Genome Analysis Center recently installed a pair of SGI UV300 computers used to assess wheat genomes as part of a global food security initiative. The supercomputer installation makes the center the largest SGI system dedicated to life sciences in the world.

(Hewlett Packard Enterprise announced last week it would acquire rival HPC server maker SGI for $7.75 per share, or about $275 million.)

Kx Systems, a division of First Derivatives (FDP:LN), has been expanding beyond analytics services for the financial sector to include pharmaceuticals and life sciences. While the financial services sector remains the largest user of big data technologies like streaming analytics, a recent industry survey found that the life sciences and healthcare sectors are rapidly embracing big data, beginning to develop what the survey called a “robust data management capabilities” akin to those employed by the financial services sector for several decades.

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