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In today’s hyper-connected world, new technologies are fuelling the exponential growth in the use of data, analytics and AI. In fact, every two years, we create more data than was previously created through all of history.

With more data comes the need for larger, more powerful computers, and whilst high-performance computing (HPC) was initially adopted by research scientists who needed to perform mathematical calculations, it is now emerging as the go-to platform for a wide range of industries, from seismic imaging to genomics and beyond.

What is HPC?

High-performance computing refers to the aggregation of immense computing power to process data and perform complex calculations at high speeds. HPC is used to convert large amounts of data into real insights, ultimately helping us to understand the world around us. 

An HPC environment is made up of thousands of processors operating in parallel – similar to having thousands of PCs networked together, combining compute power to complete tasks faster. 

To put it into perspective, where a standard desktop computer can perform around three billion calculations per second, HPC solutions can perform quadrillions of calculations per second. 

How does HPC work in the cloud?

While traditional HPC environments can take the form of on-premise supercomputers, a more widely used approach is to use an interconnected cluster of servers to provide high-performance capabilities in the cloud.

Each server within the cluster serves as a node, and each node is typically equipped with multiple processors to handle compute-intensive tasks. The processors, graphical processing units (GPU) and memory resources within each node are all interconnected to create the high-performance system.

With the cost of purchasing and running a supercomputer easily running into the millions, having on-premise HPC is far beyond the financial reach of most businesses. However, with HPC now available in the cloud, businesses can reap the performance benefits without having to heavily invest in the underlying infrastructure and maintenance. 

Why is HPC important?

Data is the gateway to scientific discoveries, business innovation and answers to unsolved questions, making HPC the foundation for industrial, scientific and societal progress. 

With technologies like AI, Machine Learning and IoT quickly evolving, the amount of data that businesses have to process is growing rapidly. From tracking a developing storm to analyzing stock trends, the ability to process data in real-time is crucial.  

In order to stay ahead of the curve, businesses need IT infrastructure to be able to keep up with market changes and analyze massive amounts of data on-demand.

Who uses HPC?

Any environment that thrives on the collection and analysis of data with the help of immense computation power needs HPC. Whether deployed on-premises or in the cloud, HPC solutions are used for a variety of purposes across multiple industries. 

  • Oil and gas
    The energy sector has long used HPC for seismic analysis to accurately identify where to drill for oil and gas deposits and help boost production from existing wells.
  • Research labs
    Scientists use HPC to understand the evolution of our universe, find sources of renewable energy, predict and track storms, and create new materials.
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning
    HPC is used to detect credit card fraud, provide self-guided technical support, teach self-driving vehicles, and improve cancer screening techniques.
  • Media and entertainment
    HPC is used to edit feature films, render special effects and CGI, and stream live events around the world. 
  • Financial services
    The financial sector uses HPC to run applications more efficiently, analyse data quickly, and track real-time stock trends and automate trading.

The future of HPC

What was previously the domain of scientists and computer and software developers is becoming ever more important as a research tool in many surprising areas. From mapping the human brain to predicting the path of a hurricane, our ability to collect and analyse vast amounts of data will continue to increase the demand for HPC services.

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