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Keynote Address

"Data-Intensive Discoveries in Science:

The Fourth Paradigm"

Alex Szalay, Ph.D.
Alumni Centennial Professor
Dept. of Physics and Astronomy
The Johns Hopkins University

Abstract: Scientific computing is increasingly revolving around massive amounts of data. From physical sciences to numerical simulations to high throughput genomics and homeland security, we are soon dealing with Petabytes if not Exabytes of data. This new, data- centric computing requires a new look at computing architectures and strategies. We will revisit Amdahl's Law establishing the relation between CPU and I/O in a balanced computer system, and use this to analyze current computing architectures and workloads. We will discuss how existing hardware can be used to build systems that are much closer to an ideal Amdahl machine. We have deployed various scientific applications, mostly drawn from astronomy, over different architectures and compare performance and scaling laws. We discuss a hypothetical cheap, yet high performance multi-petabyte system currently under consideration at JHU. We will also explore strategies of interacting with very large amounts of data, and compare various large scale data analysis platforms.

Bio: Alexander Szalay is the Alumni Centennial Professor of Astronomy at the Johns Hopkins University. He is also a professor in the Department of Computer Science. A cosmologist, he works on the statistical measures of the spatial distribution of galaxies and galaxy formation. He was born and educated in Hungary, and he spent postdoctoral periods at UC Berkeley and the University of Chicago before accepting a faculty position at Johns Hopkins. Szalay was elected to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences as a corresponding member in 1990. He is the architect for the Science Archive of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and project director of the NSF-funded National Virtual Observatory. He has written more than 340 papers that have appeared in various scientific journals, covering areas such as theoretical cosmology, observational astronomy, spatial statistics, and computer science. In 2003 he was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received an Alexander von Humboldt Prize in Physical Sciences in 2004 and a Microsoft Award for Technical Computing in 2008. He is a Corresponding Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2008 he became Doctor Honoris Clausa of the Eotvos University.