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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Welcome to SCINet - The ARS Big Data Initiative!

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The ARS network of humans, hardware, and software

 

 

Why SCINet?

ARS research needs are rapidly changing, and many ARS research projects are limited by computing constraints in terms of hardware, connectivity, or the even the cost and learning curve for state-of-the-art software packages to keep ARS science on the cutting edge.

To meet agriculture's 21st century grand challenges, ARS scientists must work together, and with collaborators in research networks across geographic boundaries and scientific disciplines. ARS research addresses the needs of communities spanning local to global levels. The work is highly data driven, interactive, and multidisciplinary; and it demands a robust, fast, and well-connected high-technological approach.

How SCINet?

 Humans:
In 2015, ARS sponsored several workshops. A major goal was to begin building the human network of SCINet, by bringing users together with a shared scientific need. The feedback, and human network building were invaluable to SCINet's development. Participation from every individual is critical to building all aspects of SCINet. Stay tuned, a survey to ARS researchers to clarify research computing needs, and more workshops are planned for 2016.

A diverse range of real ARS users are testing SCINet. They were selected to provide a wide range of needs and skills, to identify any problems across the whole SCINet system. Area Offices and Office of National Programs nominated individuals for two testing phases, alpha and beta. The alpha phase employs computer users with experience using a Linux-based high performance computing (HPC); while the beta phase includes people experienced in computationally intensive work from any discipline e.g. bioinformatics, remote sensing, modeling, etc. More information and updates on SCINet testing will be coming in a future post.

ARS is deploying a "virtual" core group of personnel with diverse skills in scientific computing to provide support or training to ARS researchers wanting to expand their research to big data techniques and software. This virtual core group will serve as resource for computing tasks, or as a mentoring resource for ARS scientists to integrate cutting edge technology into their research.

Hardware:
ARS is building a next-generation hardware network as the backbone of SCINet. It connects six ARS locations (Ames IA, Stoneville MS, Albany CA, Beltsville MD, Clay Center NE, Fort Collins CO) and will serve as a research data conduit among agency locations. ARS is also creating a large capacity storage and HPC infrastructure deployed in Ames, IA. The HPC includes 64 separate computers to support multiple operating systems and access over 1.3 petabytes of storage space that will be backed up to cloud storage. In addition, the SCINet HPC includes five high-memory nodes, each with 1.5 TB of shared memory and 60 processing cores.

Software:
A diverse range of real ARS users (nominated by each Area Office and the Office of National Programs) have been hard at work testing SCINet for varied disciplines, e.g. bioinformatics, remote sensing, modeling, and more. Nearly 60 software applications have been tested so far for SCINet Phase 1 deployment in June 2016.  

ARS Employees with an ARS email: Join the SCINet News listserv now to get the latest SCINet updates!

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Last Modified: 3/10/2017
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