A partnership pays off with medical devices to help the most vulnerable

RENCI is all about partnerships. Our software developers, engineers, data and computing specialists team with researchers to give them the technologies and cyberinfrastructure they need to continue important work and launch new projects.

Such was the case with REALTROMINS, a medical device startup launched by a Keith Kocis, an MD in the department of pediatrics at UNC’s School of Medicine, and his brother Daniel Kocis, Jr., PhD. REALTROMINS (which stands for REAL-Time Risk Of Mortality and INStability) set out to help the most vulnerable of medical patients: critically ill infants the pediatric intensive care unit and children’s cardiac care unit at UNC Children’s Hospital.



Back in 2007, when the company was brand new and RENCI was a relatively new resource for research teams, Keith Kocis lauched a partnership with RENCI to help develop his idea into a commercially viable product. RENCI researchers worked with the company for several years to develop new technologies for capturing, managing, integrating, analyzing, and visualizing vast amounts of real-time data gathered from hospital monitors. The idea was to give doctors and nurses a system for easily assessing an infant’s condition, including overall trends that can indicate whether the infant’s condition is improving or deteriorating.

Using this tool, the REALTROMINS founders hoped that caregivers would be able to quickly respond to changes and realign their treatment plans to maximize an infant’s chance of survival.

RENCI helped the company develop the cyberinfrastructure needed for its product, and then moved on. That’s generally how it works here. We give our partners tools they need and probably couldn’t develop themselves, and then we let them run with them. I often want to check in with former partners and find out if their work is still on track, but I rarely have the time to do so. That’s why it was good to hear from Keith Kocis recently and learn that REALTROMINS is thriving and has just announced two new devices, one for assessing critically ill newborns and one for hospitalized children outside the ICU. The company now works with IBM, using its InfoSphere Streams technology in continued development.

Congratulations to REALTROMINS on this important new technology with the potential to save lives. And a round of applause to UNC’s Kenan Flagler Business School and the Office of Technology Development for helping the Kocis’ turn a good idea into a viable company. This is truly a partnership that paid off for RENCI, and demonstrates the real-world value of UNC research.

Read more about it at the REALTROMINS website.

RENCI contributes to white paper about new methods for HPVC storage

A news release published today announced a joint white paper by RENCI and Kaminario, the leading scale-out all-flash array provider. The report is aimed at IT administrators and provides guidelines on how to test storage for High Performance Virtual Clusters (HPVCs). It outlines two reference architectures for building HPVCs that support medium to large cluster workload requirements.

In the paper, entitled “Reference Architecture: Scalable SSD Storage for Building a High Performance ESX Cluster,” Kaminario and RENCI developed a new methodology and best practices checklist for testing HPVCs that takes into account the necessity of performance consistency for competitive virtual environments. The method consists of a set of mixed workload combined tests, including read/write, random/sequential, and small/large block size.

The tests were conducted using the Kaminario K2 storage solution in conjunction with VMware I/O Analyzer to test the performance of a variety of workloads. Kaminario K2 provided administrators with a highly scalable, low-cost platform to support the most demanding needs of HPVCs. It was able to support a linear increase in VM load to support the 500000 IOPS cluster requirements. These results showed that mixed workload testing scenarios better enable IT administers to successfully design and implement a HPVCs that fits a modern infrastructure.

To download the white paper, click here. To read the press release, click here.

Stan Ahalt talks about RENCI, the data deluge, and more

RENCI Director Stan Ahalt sat down with Ernie Hood, the host of the Radio In Vivo show, on Wednesday, Jan. 7, to discuss RENCI and it’s role in the North Carolina research community. Other topics touched on throughout the hour-long interview included the National Consortium for Data Science (NCDS), of which Ahalt is a founding member, and the challenges and opportunities of the digital data deluge of the 21s century.

Radio In Vivo is a weekly interview program focused on the Triangle area science community that airs on Wednesdays at 11 A.M. on WCOM-FM (103.5) and streams at wcomfm.org. It features interviews with the researchers who make the Research Triangle  a leading hub of scientific research and development.

Listen to the archived interview on the Radio In Vivo website.

RENCI Researchers and Partners Help Plan Big Data Conference

RENCI staff and partners involved in the National Consortium for Data Science (NCDS) will play a major role in planning the The Second IEEE/ASA International Conference on Big Data Science and Computing. The conference, called BigDataScience, will be held at Stanford University May 27-31, 2014 in conjunction with the Sixth IEEE/ASE International Conference on Social Computing and the Third IEEE/ASE International Conference on Cyber Security.

RENCI Director and chair of the NCDS Steering Committee Stan Ahalt, RENCI Senior Research Software Developer Howard Lander and Arcot Rajasekar, RENCI’s chief domain scientist for data grid technologies, are all helping to chair the BigDataScience conference. In addition, Justin Zahn, a faculty member at NC A&T State University and one of the NCDS Data Science Faculty Fellows, will play a major role on the planning committee.

The Conference will bring together academic scientists, researchers, scholars and industry partners to exchange and share their experiences and research results in advancing big data science and engineering. It will feature workshops, speakers, paper presentations, and will provide an opportunity to network and share new discoveries. Participants can submit workshop proposals until the deadline of Jan. 15, research papers until March 1, and research posters until April 21. All submissions and inquiries can be sent to ieeeaseconference@gmail.com.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is the world’s largest technical professional association, composed of engineers, computer scientists, and allied professionals. This Conference is the premier international forum for research on information and communication technologies. Conference co-sponsor ASE (Academy of Science and Engineeering) is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science and engineering innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity.

RENCI’s Social Computing Room in Action

If you’ve ever wondered how the UNC campus community uses the Social Computing Room that RENCI built and deployed in the ITS Manning Building, final exams offered a glimpse of how useful the room can be.

Instead of the typical final exam, students in Geography 445 held a finals week poster session in the room where they showcased their research projects (created by peer groups rather than individuals) and had a chance to assess the projects done by other groups. The results were interaction and lively discussion on a wide range of topics, from understanding how multi-drug resistant tuberculosis spreads in Peru to an analysis of the relationship between food insecurity and obesity in North Carolina. The class was taught by Ashley R. Ward, PhD, a lecturer in the geography department.

The Social Computing Room is a square room with a floor-to-ceiling desktop on all four walls, making it ideal for presenting large volumes of information, interactions with data, and group projects that involve multimedia. For a quick peak at the Geography 445 poster session, check out this YouTube video.

New RENCI White Paper Envisions Future Internet

Researchers today work at the computer as much as in the field or in the lab, often grabbing computing resources and applications from research centers and cloud sites across the country or the world.  However, data sets are typically centralized, and computation is built around the data as permanent function. As a result, research infrastructure is very expensive to maintain, and hard to share and adapt, even in the age of big data, where research data sets can be widely distributed.

RENCI’s Networking Research Group aims to make distributed, data-intensive research more flexible and collaboration friendly. Through a project funded by the National Science Foundation’s Global Environment for Network Innovations (GENI) project, they are working to connect networked cloud sites as needed to provide resources and applications for experimentation and discovery, and production activities, including data-intensive computing.

The buzz phrase for their work is Networked Infrastructure as a Service (NIaaS), a model that allows for provisioning of network functions alongside compute and storage resource provisioning. The RENCI project is ExoGENI, a joint effort with Duke University and IBM that links NSF GENI resources to open cloud computing resources and dynamic circuit fabrics that allow users to specify the network services they need for their job in real time.

ExoGENI offers a glimpse of how research networks and the next version of the Internet could operate. You can read about it now in a new RENCI White Paper: Visions of a Future Internet: The ExoGENI Example. 




RENCI Presence at Major Metadata Conference in Greece next week

Several RENCI researchers will be presenting at one of the biggest international metadata research conferences next week in Thessaloniki, Greece. The seventh International Conference on Metadata and Semantics Research (MTSR’13) will bring together scholars and practitioners within the interdisciplinary field of metadata, linked data and ontologies. Participants will share knowledge and best practices in the implementation of these technologies.

Metadata applications span a diverse set of platforms including cultural informatics; open access repositories (digital libraries), E-learning applications; search engine optimization and information retrieval; research information systems and infrastructures; e-science and e-social science applications; agriculture and food; environment and ecology; and bio-health & medical information systems.

RENCI researchers Reagan Moore, Chief Domain Scientist, and Mary Whitton, Senior Project Manager, contributed to a paper entitled “Advancing the DFC Semantic Technology Platform via HIVE Innovation” which details the DataNet Federation Consortium’s (DFC) efforts to develop metadata grids for multidisciplinary research. The HIVE project is being integrated into iRODS in the DFC architecture to provide a scaleable linked open data approach to scientific data sharing.

Data Management Research Scientist, Terrell Russell, and Data Intensive Cyber Environments staff, Antoine de Torcy, both also from RENCI, contributed to a different paper for the conference, entitled “Using Metadata to Facilitate Understanding And Certification of Assertions about the Preservation Properties of a Preservation System”. This paper details a method to assist developers of preservation repositories to verify that their archival recommendations are being applied, as well as ensure the application of preservation policies.

The co-chair of the conference is Jane Greenberg, a professor in UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science 
(SILS) and the Director of the Metadata Research Center. Greenberg is also one of the 2014 National Consortium for Data Science (NCDS) new Data Science Fellows.

All papers from the conference are being published in the online journal Communications in Computer and Information Science (Springer), Volume 390. Congrats to our scientists and have a great time in Greece!

Interesting Lecture on Large-Scale Computing Problems

As we delve further into the era of large-scale computing, new and ever-more challenging problems present themselves for solving. Google Fellow, Luiz Andre Barroso, will be coming to Duke University on Nov. 18, 2013 to deliver a lecture entitled “Three Hard Problems in Large-Scale Computing” where he will present three examples of these types of problems, drawn from his experience with operating large computing systems at Google.

Dr. Barroso’s interests cover a wide variety of technical topics, from distributed systems software to computing platform design. He co-wrote The Datacenter as a Computer, the first textbook to describe the architecture of warehouse-scale computing systems, as well as a National Academies Report entitled “The Future of Computing Performance: Game Over or Next Level?”. He received his B.S. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the Pontificia Universidade Católica in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and his Ph.D. in Computer Engineering from the University of Southern California. Dr. Barroso is an ACM Fellow and AAAS Fellow and serves on the National Academies’ Computer Science and Telecommunications Board.

The lecture will take place from 4:00-5:00pm at North 311 at Duke. The event is part of the Triangle Computer Science Distinguished Lecturer Series. Contact Alvin R. Lebeck at alvy@cs.duke.edu directly for scheduling or questions.

RENCI Research Architect Presents on O’Reilly Webcast

RENCI Senior Research Software Architect Michael Shoffner will be featured in a live O’Reilly Media webinar tomorrow, Nov. 7, at 10 a.m. PST (1 p.m. EST). Shoffner, who is also an adjunct faculty member in the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS), will be speaking about “Turning Bigger Data Into Better Healthcare: The direction clinical medicine is heading in the age of Big Data.” Shoffner’s talk will address one of the most important challenges facing the health care industry today: we now have more health-related data than ever before, but the technology to analyze this large influx of data is lacking.

Not only must healthcare data technology scale to petabytes of clinical genomics data, but it must also weave together data management with cybersecurity, on-demand analysis, and data-driven decision support for health professionals. It must assist patients and healthcare providers with the technology logistics of managing complex data, as well as provide protection for healthcare institutions by mitigating liability arising from protected health information.

Shoffner is the lead on RENCI’s Secure Medical Workspace (SMW) project, helping to develop the SMW system for UNC Hospitals in collaboration with NC TraCS and SILS. The SMW system was designed by combining a secure centralized infrastructure with virtualization and data leakage protection technologies to allow researchers to manipulate and analyze research data while ensuring that sensitive patient information remains within the SMW. Shoffner is now leading his team to pilot the next version of the software, which will have an increased security profile, be easier for researchers to use and provide an increased security profile.

The webcast will use the SMW project as an example to describe the direction clinical medicine is heading in the age of big data, highlighting key initiatives and challenges. It will be available for viewing at O’Reilly.org and you can register to attend the virtual event at http://bit.ly/1b7HIiO.

Healthcare analytics in the spotlight

RENCI Senior Research Scientist Ketan Mane has been busy presenting on a topic that he understands well: How to help clinicians use patient data to improve their diagnosis and treatment decisions with easy-to-use, Web-based analytics.

Mane was part of a panel who presented at a Big Data and Healthcare webinar sponsored by the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) on Oct. 23, where he talked about breakthroughs in health informatics and data visualization. He also had a paper accepted for presentation at the Workshop in Visual Analytics for Healthcare, which will be held in conjunction with the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) meeting on Nov. 16 in Washington, DC.

Interestingly, two of the three panelists who were part of the MHTA webinar had RENCI connections. The other was Dr. Keith Kocis, of UNC Hospitals, who talked about the Hospital Monitoring Project. That project created a system for monitoring data from infants in intensive care units so that caregivers can spot trends and react to potential problems before they become crises. RENCI partnered with Kocis on the visual analytics that allows doctors and nurses to easily–and visually–decipher the monitoring data.