Lawrence Livermore explores the shape of data, expanding query-free analytics
- By William Jackson
- Jan 09, 2014
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is taking advantage of federally funded research into topological data analysis (TDA) to find new ways of extracting and using information from data sets that are too large and complex to yield to traditional analytical techniques.
The lab is collaborating with Ayasdi Inc., a commercial spin-off from research at Stanford University that is funded through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation. Ayasdi’s Insight Discovery platform is a software suite already being used by private- and public-sector organizations, including the intelligence community, to glean insights from large and varied data collections.
“Big data challenges are a part of our mission,” said Anantha Krishnan,
director of the lab’s Office of Mission Innovation.
The lab uses high-performance computing for modeling and simulation in areas of energy, climate change, biological defense and national security. “For many years the lab has had to rely on homegrown technology,” Krishnan said. “We have developed our own set of data analysis tools and modeling and simulation tools.”
But the lab also is looking at commercial tools that have emerged as big data has become a mainstream subject in IT. “Our sense is that topological data analysis could be a big contributor to the things we do,” Krishnan said.
Topology is a branch of mathematics dating to the 18th century that studies shapes. In the 21st century it has been expanded to apply to problems beyond physical shapes and surfaces to include the very large and high-dimensional data sets that constitute what is called big data. Data has shape, and shape has meaning, said Krishnan. The lab’s work with Ayasdi, announced in November, is an effort to extract that meaning.
“We are going through the evaluation phase now,” said Krishnan. “Our hope is that in the next few months the value will become clear.” The challenge in working with big data is not just volume. Big data is more than small data made large, said Ben Mann, Ayasdi’s vice president of federal operations. “Big data, done right, is completely different.”