Cloud Wars logo with text: Tech's Response to COVID-19 - Oracle
Cloud Wars logo with text: Tech's Response to COVID-19 - Oracle

Oracle Battles COVID-19 by Giving Researchers Gen 2 Cloud Infrastructure

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(Latest in our series showing the tech industry’s response to COVID-19.)


In the global battle against coronavirus, Oracle has quietly aligned with a leading research university exploring novel ways to treat COVID-19 and with NVIDIA’s genomic-analysis specialists looking to unlock the structure of the deadly disease.

In both cases, Oracle is offering its Gen 2 public-cloud infrastructure to the research teams whose work requires staggeringly large volumes of high-speed computing power.

While Oracle declined to elaborate on the details of the projects, the company did confirm it is contributing GPU power to assist various researchers with simulation and modeling experiments.

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis 

The university has a site called FoldingAtHome that describes its dazzling work this way:

To help tackle coronavirus, we want to understand how these viral proteins work and how we can design therapeutics to stop them… But proteins have lots of moving parts, so we really want to see the protein in action. The structures we can’t see experimentally may be the key to discovering a new therapeutic. Using football as an analogy for the experimental situation, it’s as if you could only see the players lined up for the snap (the single arrangement the players spend the most time in) and were blind to the rest of the game.

The Washington University School of Medicine team then asks for donations of various kinds, with the #1 option being computing power. A bit later, FoldingAtHome (that name refers to the way proteins are structured) describes how it is sharing its findings with the public and identifies Oracle as its partner in the effort. So far, Oracle is the first and only partner.

“Our specialty is in using computer simulations to understand proteins’ moving parts,” the site says. “Watching how the atoms in a protein move relative to one another is important because it captures valuable information that is inaccessible by any other means. Taking the experimental structures as starting points, we can simulate how all the atoms in the protein move, effectively filling in the rest of the game that experiments miss.”

NVIDIA Parabricks

NVIDIA is offering free 90-day licenses for its highly specialized genomic-analysis GPU technology to coronavirus researchers. Again, Oracle is offering Gen 2 public-cloud infrastructure to run those compute-intensive applications.

NVIDIA acquired startup Parabricks 3 months ago and said it can slash genomic-analysis times from months to days.

In a March 19 blog post, NVIDIA healthcare vice-president Kimberly Powell wrote, “When a crisis hits, we all pitch in with what we have. In response to the current pandemic, NVIDIA is sharing tools with researchers that can accelerate their race to understand the novel coronavirus and help inform a response.”

Powell said Parabricks’ GPU technology can “accelerate by as much as 50x the analysis of a sequence of data.” She also noted that NVIDIA is willing to extend the 90-day free period as needed.

As with the FoldingAtHome researchers at Washington University, Oracle is listed as the primary partner for NVIDIA Parabricks.

“NVIDIA is inviting our family of partners to join us in matching this urgent effort to assist the research community,” the March 19 blog post states. “We’re in discussions with cloud-service providers and supercomputing centers to provide compute resources and access to Parabricks on their platforms. Here are the first partners to offer their support:

  • Oracle will provide bare-metal NVIDIA GPUs through Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.
  • Core Scientific, in partnership with NetApp, is providing free access to NVIDIA DGX systems and NetApp cloud-connected storage through ONTAP AI.”

Disclosure: at the time of this writing, Oracle was among the many clients of Evans Strategic Communications LLC and/or Cloud Wars Media LLC.


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