The advent and increasing accessibility of High Performance Computing (HPC) for individuals, organisations and businesses have opened the door to growth and development in ways no one ever thought possible. The quantitative and data-driven approach adopted across many sectors in modern times has not only necessitated this but made it an indispensable part of innovative projects and enterprises with both scientific and commercial objectives all over the world.
As one of the market leaders in HPC, we thought we’d explore just some of the ways it has changed the world in the past and present and where things are heading in the future.
The development of HPC
HPC was born from the need to make the highest levels of processing power much more accessible and available to those who required it. Previously, the only way to effectively do this was by purchasing extremely expensive supercomputers. This meant its utilisation was, for the most part, limited to well-funded government and academic institutions as well as large corporations around the globe.
Supercomputers were successfully used by these institutions in a variety of different ways. Some of the more notable included militaristic purposes like calculating missile trajectories and nuclear weapons simulations. Another early application was the projections for long-range weather forecasting.
The problem with individual supercomputers was not only were they expensive to purchase but they were also extremely expensive to maintain. They also tended to be physically bulky, could quickly become outdated and had an element of risk if they were solely relied upon in projects which utilised them.
HPC systems have evolved as more practical solutions, moving from a supercomputer model to one that incorporates complex networks of databases and servers managing the entire workflow. This model, along with technological advances, has made HPC a much more cost-effective and viable solution.
Sectors and industries that are using HPC
HPC has been embraced around the world by many industries, some of which include the following:
Astronomy and Astrophysics
The field of astronomy and astrophysics is almost tailor-made for the strengths of HPC given the infinite vastness of space and the number of celestial bodies within it. Quite simply, research in the field could not develop and evolve without the use of HPC. The large datasets involved in cosmological simulations in current and future experiments will mean it will be something that is utilised for many years to come.
HPC has revolutionised how design and engineering teams now work in the automotive industry with the power to run a wide variety of simulations during the conceptual and development stage. This includes predicting and analysing the fuel efficiency of vehicles as well as safety features with crash simulations (including airbag simulations). This has had obvious benefits for the environment and with driver and passenger safety in vehicles.
While much of the utilisation of HPC has been in fields related to health and science, the Financial Services industry has also been busy maximising what they can from it. Much of this work has revolved around predicting trends and trading patterns in the stock market. In an environment where milliseconds can make a difference, this has proved to be highly advantageous. HPC has also been utilised in risk management to calculate interest rates for customers based on their profile.
Medicine and pathology
HPC is fast becoming an invaluable tool in medicine and pathology, not just with respect to research but in treatments too. HPC systems are allowing doctors to make informed decisions faster with tools that can quickly run complex analysis and diagnostics so doctors can better assess the underlying issues. The testing of new drugs is also an area that is drastically cutting down the development of these medicines which will in the future, significantly reduce costs.
Oil and Gas
The Oil and Gas industry were early adopters of HPC technology which has played an important role in the search and discovery of new sources of crude oil. Using similar techniques to those used in seismology, oil companies study seismic data as well as other factors to determine the size and potential of a reserve. They also use the data to assess how to best optimise all facets of the extraction and production process. Suffice to say, it has been an extremely lucrative strategy.
Another area where HPC is being used with respect to the planet is in seismology, applied in a number of different ways. Some examples include predicting the amount of earthquake damage that might be done in a given area, studying the links between earthquakes and tsunamis, analysing fault lines and more. The power of HPC to manage the workload of all the different variables and calculations required from seismic data has paved the way for a new level of insight and analysis.
Weather forecasting and climate change
Weather forecasting was one of the first applications of supercomputing and HPC has taken that mantle, now more important than ever in the context of climate change. HPC has allowed for the development of extremely high-resolution climate simulations that have become a vital tool for climate scientists. Not only can this help them model specific climate change scenarios but it also helps with early warning storm systems too.
The future of HPC
The future of HPC is an exciting one to be part of and is something that will continue to revolutionise the way we live. This is especially true in the context of ongoing technological advancements with the likes of the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence. Such advancements demand a much higher level of computing power which will require the capabilities of HPC, especially at scale.
Many of the industries mentioned above will continue to advance at an accelerated rate as new avenues of research and development are discovered and enhanced. Further to this, more industries will start to realise the benefits of HPC, utilising the technology as it evolves.
We are now starting to see a merger between HPC and Big Data Analytics as they go hand in hand. The industry has termed this as HPDA (High Performance Data Analytics).
HPDA enables organisations to combine a wide variety of large data sets, integrate multiple information sources and perform analysis across all the information around enterprise, partners, suppliers and customers. This real-time analysis of what’s going on around your business, at every possible angle, will be used to drive innovation and economic growth.
The overall benefit of HPC cannot be understated and it’s a technology that will not only propel economic growth but bring social prosperity with it too.