Cloud Computing

Lockheed Martin studies how to use a cloud of satellites for space missions

NASA and Lockheed Martin have been studying how small satellites could be knit together into a distributed swarm. (NASA Illustration)

More and more computing is being done in the cloud, but so far, the cloud-based approach hasn’t been applied in space.

Lockheed Martin is thinking about changing that.

The aerospace giant has already registered two trademarks for satellite cloud systems — HiveStar and SpaceCloud — and it’s considering how the approach can be applied to a range of space missions.

Yvonne Hodge, vice president and chief information officer at Colorado-based Lockheed Martin Space, lifted the curtain on the HiveStar project last week at Amazon’s re:MARS conference in Las Vegas.

“It’s not just about collecting the data and then sending it back to the ground for processing,” Hodge said. “It’s about analyzing the information in space … and then sending the knowledge, the intelligence back to Earth.”

Yvonne Hodge is vice president and chief information officer at Lockheed Martin Space. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

One of the keys to the HiveStar architecture is Lockheed Martin’s recently announced SmartSat project, which will allow small satellites to be reprogrammed in orbit as easily as adding an app to a smartphone.

A team of engineers at Lockheed Martin has been working on an arrangement that would knit small satellites like SmartSats into a network for in-space communications and data processing.

NASA has been working on what sounds like a similar technology development program, known as the Swarm Optical Dynamics Adviser or SODA.

Nikita Patel, one of the engineers working on Lockheed Martin’s HiveStar project, said her team tested out network configurations using a set of experimental drones. “What we created was a ‘hive,’ a constellation of heterogeneous nodes that were self-organizing and self-tasking, much like our team,” Patel explained.

The network could serve as the basis for a permanent interplanetary information infrastructure. Data from robots and could be processed in the local hive, and the key bits of data could then be passed along through a series of nodes to their intended destinations.

“It would really only require 1-meter-wide mirrors, laser comms and strategically placed devices at various Lagrange points,” Patel said. “That’s all we would need, and we could ensure a continuous gigabit-per-second connection from Earth to anywhere. But that infrastructure doesn’t exist right now.”

Nikita Patel
Nikita Patel is an engineer at Lockheed Martin. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

After the presentation, Hodge told GeekWire that the HiveStar configuration could be used in environments ranging from low Earth orbit to deep space.

“It’s a constellation, but it’s the software-defined aspect of it that makes it a hive,” she said. “It’s not like you replicate the mission in every single satellite, but you can distribute the information in such a way so that if something happened to one, then the others can take over.”

Hodge said the project is being pushed forward because of customer interest — but declined to get too specific about the potential customers.

“It’s important stuff that’s classified,” she told GeekWire. “The concept is right on in terms of what they were looking for, so we’re working that — but now it’s broader.”

Hodge said HiveStar could see its first deployment within two years, “maybe even sooner.” That led me to ask whether the concept could be applied at the moon, which is the focus of a big exploration push on NASA’s part.

“Absolutely,” she said. “You’re good.”

Microsoft-backed universal blood test could start diagnosing disease ‘within a small number of years’

Peter Lee, corporate vice president at Microsoft Healthcare, speaking at the HL7 FHIR DevDays conference on Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (GeekWire Photo / James Thorne)

REDMOND — A groundbreaking system that would use artificial intelligence to diagnose several diseases from a single blood test may not be far off.

The project, a collaboration between Microsoft and Seattle-based Adaptive Biotechnologies, could start diagnosing conditions “within a small number of years,” said Peter Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft Healthcare, speaking at a conference for healthcare developers at Microsoft headquarters here Tuesday.

Lee’s optimism has come along way since he first heard the idea.

“This sounds a lot like science fiction. And in fact, when the idea was first presented to me by the people at Adaptive Biotechnologies, I was also somewhat skeptical about this, despite the fact that that I’m a big fan of Star Trek,” he said in a reference to the Tricorder, a handheld diagnostic device made famous by the Star Trek franchise.

Lee became convinced of the idea after seeing how Adaptive was able to label 100 billion data points per month. “The prediction is that, within a small number of years, we might have enough training data, if fed to a suitably robust cloud-scale machine learning algorithm, to actually achieve some diagnostic results,” Lee said

The system works by interpreting information about the immune system that can be read from a small vial of blood. Adaptive’s technology decodes the genetic information that is associated with T cells, which are vital to immune response. Inside those cells exists “all of the information that’s needed to determine exactly what cancer, what infectious diseases and what autoimmune disorders your body might be coping with,” Lee said.

Adaptive’s Immunoseq platform is able to read patients’ immune systems. (Adaptive Photo)

The partnership between Microsoft and Adaptive was first unveiled more than a year ago. In January, the companies announced that the AI system is up and running and will initially focus on diagnosing type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer and Lyme disease.

But in order to diagnose a disease accurately, the companies will have to do more than read the immune system. They’ll have to know how to interpret it. “The problem is, we don’t exactly know how to extract this information,” Lee said.

Adaptive recently filed for an IPO and in doing so, warned that the work with Microsoft might not go so smoothly.

“Our collaboration with Microsoft is in the early stages, and our computations and algorithmic-based methods are largely untested,” the company said, listing the cautionary risk factors in its filing for the public offering. Adaptive added that the work “may not yield clinically actionable insights on a timetable that is commercially viable, or at all.”

But if the teams are able to spot disease information from these immune system readings, it might lead the way to a “completely universal disease diagnostic, a simple blood test that you could take once or twice a year, that would give you an early diagnosis of infectious disease, cancer and autoimmune disorders,” Lee said. The goal is to do this all within a few hours at a reasonable cost.

Microsoft’s cloud business stands to profit from a world in which diagnostics shift from laboratories to data centers, given the massive amount of computing power involved. “These precision medicine ideas, these genomics, immunomics and proteomics-based ideas involve gigantic data workloads, data volumes and data complexities that really defy human comprehension,” Lee said.

Seattle is the ‘landlord’ of the internet, thanks to Amazon and Microsoft’s cloud prowess

From left to right: Angel investor Charles Fitzgerald, Sudip Chakrabarti of Madrona Venture Group, Preeti Rathi of Ignition Partners and Sheila Gulati of Tola Capital. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Depending on the day, Amazon and Microsoft are the two most valuable companies in the U.S., and a big part of that is their dominance over the lucrative cloud computing market.

As cloud computing grows, Microsoft and Amazon, and by extension their home region of Seattle are positioned to reap the benefits. Charles Fitzgerald, an angel investor who spent 20 years at Microsoft, said at the 2019 GeekWire Cloud Summit that Seattle is the “platform capital of the world,” and its influence on the cloud means the majority of the internet is making the region’s top companies richer.

“Cloud looks like the definitive technology platform of the next decade or longer,” Fitzgerald said. “And guess what, we are your landlord; your monthly rent check comes to Seattle every month.”

Seattle investor Charles Fitzgerald at the GeekWire Cloud Summit (GeekWire photo / Kevin Lisota)

Amazon is the clear leader in cloud computing, commanding a 32 percent market share as of the end of last year, per a recent study from Canalys. Microsoft is growing its presence, though it still trails Amazon by a wide margin, with a 16 percent market share.

Amazon Web Services reported $7.7 billion in revenue in the first quarter, up 41 percent compared to the same period last year. Operating income was $2.2 billion, up 55 percent over the year-ago quarter.

Microsoft doesn’t break out revenue from sales of its Azure cloud computing services, making an apple-to-apples comparison with Amazon a challenge. Microsoft’s Intelligent Cloud division, which includes sales of Azure, Windows Server, and Enterprise Services, finished the first quarter with revenue of $9.7 billion, a 22 percent improvement compared to the same quarter last year. That division remains the fastest growing part of Microsoft overall.

The cloud computing revolution has come to define Seattle’s tech scene, and it’s also created some contrast with San Francisco, where many of the biggest consumer apps are made. Fitzgerald and a panel of VC investors said tech workers in Seattle tend to stay in their jobs longer.

In the startup scene, Madrona Venture Group’s Sudip Chakrabarti described two types of founders: Mercenaries and missionaries. In Seattle, founders tend to be more mission-driven, the panelists said.

“In Seattle we see more missionaries where people are giving up a really cushy Amazon job and have the courage to do that,” Chakrabarti said. “We need to see more of that. My fear is we are already starting to see more of that mercenary mindset.”

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So far we have introduced cloud computing, explained its value to the business, andintroduced platform as a service (PaaS),infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and software as a service (SaaS) models of cloud computing.

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e-Book: Primer on Hybrid Cloud Computing

So far we have introduced cloud computing, explained its value to the business, andintroduced platform as a service (PaaS),infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and software as a service (SaaS) models of cloud computing.

Next, we will explore practical considerations in cloud deployment. There are three configurations for cloud deployment – public, private, and hybrid. CIOs must understand what each is, how to select one or the other, and how to migrate to the selected environment.

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e-Book: Primer on Software as a Service (SaaS)

So far we have introduced cloud computing, explained its value to the business, andintroduced platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) models of cloud computing.

Next, we will explore the software as a service (SaaS) model of cloud computing. CIOs must understand the key concepts underlying software as a service (SaaS), what value it brings to their business, and how to deploy it for value. Toward that end, this discussion lays the groundwork for a meaningful discussion on software as a service (SaaS). An excellent place to start your journey into software as a service (SaaS).

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e-Book: Primer on Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

So far we have introduced cloud computing, explained its value to the business, and introduced platform as a service (PaaS) model of cloud computing.

Next, we will explore the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) model of cloud computing. CIOs must understand the key concepts underlying infrastructure as a service (IaaS), what value it brings to their business, and how to deploy it for value. Toward that end, this discussion lays the groundwork for a meaningful discussion on infrastructure as a service (IaaS). An excellent place to start your journey into infrastructure as a service (IaaS).

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