Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

LEARN Catalyses the Growth of High-Performance Computing and AI at APAN57

By Arteculate Jul 10, 2024 #LEARN #Sponsored

At APAN57 in Thailand, LEARN put forward a proposal to create a Working Group for AI and High-Performance Computing (HPC), uniting experts in these domains across the region. This initiative aims to harness the combined expertise and resources of the Asia-Pacific community, driving innovation and fostering collaboration. By addressing critical regional challenges and advancing cutting-edge research, the Working Group seeks to position APAN as a global leader in HPC and AI, promoting technological progress and socio-economic development. This proposal marks the beginning of a concerted effort to integrate AI and HPC, paving the way for significant advancements in various sectors.

LEARN’s Proposal for Innovation in HPC and AI amongst Global Leaders

For the unfamiliar, the Asia Pacific Advanced Network (APAN) is a network connecting the region’s NREN’s while simultaneously an organisation that offers a united platform to promote collaboration among them and their global peers. These meetings host a body of renowned researchers, educators, network engineers, and policymakers from the region to advance research and education. This group of professionals converge biannually at one of Asia’s biggest technology conferences and academic events. Participants from diverse backgrounds at the event then collaborate and exchange knowledge in ‘Working Groups’ for meetings, workshops, training sessions, and research activities in a single shared field.

Having foreseen the bigger potential of advancing HPC and AI working in unison alongside their regional peers, LEARN submitted a proposal to the APAN Secretariat to initiate a Working Group for experts from the two fields to collaborate to drive joint progress and innovation. In doing so, LEARN envisions these technologies enabling significant progress across several industries, such as AI-powered medical diagnostics, precision agriculture, natural disaster resilience, astronomical exploration, and much more. As such, the proposed Working Group will use the APAN platform as a driving force for regional collaboration amongst global leaders, thereby driving digital equity and social progress that benefits all. 

The main objectives of the proposed Working Group are to foster collaboration and knowledge sharing among researchers and practitioners, promote education and training through workshops and tutorials, and bridge the gap between communities. Additionally, the group aims to leverage AI and HPC technologies for regional development, addressing challenges in healthcare, education, environmental sustainability, and economic growth. By advancing cutting-edge research and developing practical solutions, the Working Group seeks to stimulate innovation and position the APAN community as a leader in the digital era, driving significant socio-economic progress across the Asia-Pacific region.

Introducing an HPC-AI Working Group – What does it mean?

Dr. Asitha Banadaranayke – CTO of LEARN

The APAN Working Groups are focused committees composed of experts from a specialised field led by a Chair and Co-Chairs organising activities throughout the year pertaining to the education and advancement of Application and Technology in their respective fields. However, to initially assess the demand, benefit, and engagement of a newly proposed Working Group, an initial ‘Birds of Feather’ (BoF) group is formed. The Chairs, Co-Chairs, and proposed members of the BoF will monitor and report its activities to the APAN Council before forming the official Working Group.

This BoF was initiated at APAN57, which was held in Thailand. LEARN presented the Terms of Reference and its three-year plan for the BoF and Working Group at this session. Subsequently, Dr. Asitha Banadaranayke, the CTO of LEARN, was appointed as the Chair of the BOF. Moving forward, the BoF is inviting researchers and academics, representatives from APAN member countries, technology enthusiasts and professionals, industry partners, and policymakers in the field to be a part of this initiative. 

The first year would encompass kickoff meetings, joint initiatives, developing a white paper on the challenges and opportunities for HPC-AI adoption, and hosting an HPC-AI conference. Following this, LEARN intends to officially establish the Working Group at APAN59 in the upcoming year, in addition to its planned knowledge dissemination and skills development workshops, HPC-AI conference, hackathon/innovation challenge, and collaborating with regional funding agencies for research grants and capacity building. In Year 3, LEARN plans to roll out policies, guidelines, and best practices for integrating HPC and AI in several fields, foster sustainability initiatives, publish research findings in high-impact journals, and build further upon the success stories of the journey of the Working Group.

The importance of HPC and AI in Research and Industry: Insights from the NSTDA Supercomputing Center, Thailand

The LEARN delegation during their visit to Thailand’s NSTDA Supercomputer Centre 

The launch of the BoF for HPC and AI was also graced by an insightful session on the recent developments of these fields and their significance in Thailand, delivered by Dr. Piyawut Srichaikul – Director of the NSTDA Supercomputer centre (ThaiSC) and Deputy Executive Director of NECTEC. The talk highlighted the importance of HPC and supercomputing in the advancement of research and delivered a comprehensive overview of the current capacity of Thailand’s supercomputing centre.

Dr. Srichaikul shared that the LANTA supercomputer at ThaiSC is ranked 94th globally. Elaborating further on its journey, he added that high-performance computing initiatives began in Thailand in 1995 to support the country’s research and development needs for computational power. Three decades later, LANTA boasts 8 petaFLOPs of processing power utilised in important national agendas and the promotion of high technology industries in the country. The facility falls under the purview of NECTEC, which subsequently lies with the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation and the National Science and Technology Development Agency. ThaiSC’s mission also emphasises the role of HPC in fronting research and development, the development of an HPC workforce, and a national roadmap, as well as in the improvement of industrial partnerships and visibility.

The LANTA Supercomputer at ThaiSC

The facility currently operates with 7 full-time staff for operations, scientific services, and business development, offering four types of pilot programmes. Its Pioneer Programmes facilitate the development of pilot projects for dedicated research areas that require immense computing power. With this, the centre also offers Close Beta test programmes for onboarding new clients and familiarisation with the LANTA supercomputer, and Open Beta systems for projects of all sectors. With this, its final programme encompasses the full use of the Thai Large Language Model as a result of the recent popularity of Generative AI models like ChatGPT. At present, the facility houses over 200 ongoing projects and 400 user accounts, mainly from universities across the country and a handful of local and international private sector and government enterprises.

In addition to this, ThaiSC supports the training and skills development of professionals in the fields of HPC and AI through several programmes across the ASEAN region. In 2022, the centre co-hosted the EU-ASEAN HPC School to address developmental issues of social and economic importance, such as overcoming pandemic challenges and natural disaster prevention. The School continued in Japan at the EU-ASEAN-Japan Symposium in 2023, with the next rendition announced to be held in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Setting the Foundation for Collective Expertise and Resources in Asia

The launch of the HPC and AI BoF marks a significant milestone for supercomputing in the region. It signifies the beginning of a harmonised effort to harness the collective expertise and resources of all its members and their countries. Through collaborative efforts and a shared vision, LEARN, and all members of the BoF are set to pave the way for a more technologically advanced and equitable future, making significant strides in the domains of HPC and AI. As the BoF advances into a Working Group and moves forward, it is envisioned that their activities and outcomes will set novel standards for research collaboration and innovation, driving substantial socio-economic progress. The Working Group aims to position APAN as a global leader in HPC and AI, fostering sustainable infrastructure and addressing critical regional challenges in healthcare, education, and environmental sustainability

By Arteculate

Arteculate is your guide to the Asian tech industry. We give you unparalleled insights, accurate, local tech news, thoughtful features and sometimes scathing opinions on where things are headed. Stay tuned for the best of Asia!

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