SAP lead by software development manager Michael Schmidt and his DevOps team steps up in the fight against COVID-19 with SAP converged cloud, the ERP enterprise’s in-house data center.
In addition to its comprehensive COVID-19 resources, the software company has donated spare computing power from its cloud data center to help in the fight against the global pandemic. The company is lending some of its computing capacity to Folding@Home’s COVID-19 research.
Folding@Home is a distributed computing project for simulating protein dynamics in a variety of diseases. The data produced by these simulations are needed by scientists and doctors to understand moving parts of proteins and possibly create a cure for diseases caused by protein misfolding. The initiative is based at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, with additional labs at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Temple University.
What is “Folding”?
Human proteins keep our bodies healthy and assemble themselves in our cells by “folding”. However, when these proteins misfold and aggregate, it causes serious consequences to health which results in diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and even many cancers. Through big data computing, the initiative aims to understand protein folding and the diseases that result from protein misfolding in order to help in the development of new drugs.
Viruses like COVID-19 also have proteins that they use to reproduce and overpower the human immune system. With the pandemic becoming front and center in the scientific community’s concerns, the team at Folding@Home has put forward the COVID-19 project to understand how the virus’ proteins work and ultimately, find out how to design therapeutics to stop them by using computer simulations. In order to this, the project requires a massive amount of computing power. Private enterprises and individuals can help accelerate the speed at which these simulations run by donating spare GPU (graphic processing unit) power.
SAP Converged Cloud’s CPU Capacity
In a podcast interview, Schmidt said that although the SAP converged cloud doesn’t have a lot of GPUs in its servers, they do have a lot of spare CPU (central processing unit) capacity that is also needed in running simulations. They are further providing an average of 19 petaflops from the data center’s normal spare capacity. To enable calculation of extensive work units that yield very high processing power for heavy workloads, SAP has also donated its spare GPU bare-metal nodes.
Schmidt explains how the data from researchers worldwide come into SAP converged cloud center and back: from their labs, the Folding@Home team connects a series of data and segments them into work units. Team SAP receives these work units by downloading the Folding@Home software. They then work on the calculations needed. Once those are done, they send them back up to Folding@Home servers and from there a huge data set is created.
Team SAP is currently among the top 100 contributors to the COVID-19 initiative.
Ensuring SAP Customer Data Security
To ensure that customers’ data in SAP converged cloud is kept secure, Schmidt said that he and his DevOps team first worked on setting up a completely isolated environment within the data center. He further notes that what SAP converged cloud does really well is measuring the pressure put on the system in real-time, and automatically scaling it back when needed. This guarantees that productive payload is not compromised and SAP clients’ businesses operations won’t be affected.
What You Can Do to Help
Individuals and enterprises who also wish to donate computing power to the Folding@Home initiative may do so by going to their website and downloading their software. Additionally, donations can be made through Washington University in St. Louis. The funds are used for a number of purposes such as supporting their software engineering and server-side hardware. Researchers may also buy compounds based on insight from the project’s simulations which they can test experimentally.