Ungaro, a 1990 WSU graduate, said the increased use of computers, the Internet and digital technology has led to an explosion of data in recent years.
"More data is generated in a day today than we did four years ago in a year," he said.
That "data tsunami" presents a challenge for businesses and scientific researchers alike, Ungaro said. There's the "needle in a haystack" problem -- where someone needs to sort through massive quantities of information to find the one or two things they really need -- as well as the "connect the dots" problem, where researchers want to integrate data from disparate fields to discover things they didn't know before.
For example, given the huge number of drug studies and medical papers published each year, Ungaro said, cancer researchers have difficulty keeping up with the latest information in their own specialties, much less in related fields.
However, Cray is partnering with the
"By using supercomputer technology, they can check a thousand hypotheses in the time it used to take them to test one," he said.
The work quickly led to the identification of an HIV drug that could be used to treat breast cancer.
"It's something they never would have found before because it involved HIV research (rather than cancer research)," Ungaro said. "In six weeks they had a huge breakthrough, and they've made about six more discoveries since. That's a huge advantage. It can take 10 to 20 years to bring a new drug to market, but if you re-purpose an existing drug, it's much shorter, maybe two years."
In an entirely different application, Cray is working with a
Using existing technology, he said, teams can capture 20 pieces of physical data about every
"For every hit, they can collect five pieces of data," Ungaro said.
By analyzing and comparing the data, he said, Cray can generate a list of batters who are most likely to be effective against certain pitchers. Crunching the numbers during a game is prohibited, so the computer generates two lists before each game -- one for right-handed pitchers and another for left-handed pitchers.
"It says if you face this pitcher, here's who you should put in to pinch-hit. We can take that data and try to do 'Moneyball,' version two," he said, referring to the book and 2011 movie about
Modern supercomputers can be the size of a basketball court, cost upward of
"At Cray, our vision is to create a fusion between supercomputing and big data ... to build a world-class integrated computing company," he said. "We want to be able to simulate and model the world."
Spence may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 791-9168.
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