The future of HPC

The high-performance computing environment of the future

It is, perhaps, somewhat unbelievable when you consider the impact that high-performance computing has had, and continues to have. In the not too distant past, HPC was the reserve of universities and major corporations. Now we have seen it enter the mainstream and bring benefits beyond science and reaching out into a multitude of other industries.


We have the advent of the cloud to thank for the growth of high-performance computing. This removed many of the barriers to entry that had existed. The majority of which were focused upon expense. Huge data centers are now home to the infrastructure required for high-performance computing that smaller businesses could never accommodate.


For those that have witnessed such a significant shift, they may well be shocked by how high-performance computing works today. They may also be looking to the future and considering what uses of high-performance computing will have years down the line. Read on to find out more about where we are today, and why HPC is only really just getting started.


High-performance computing examples from today


Before we jump ahead and look at the future of HPC, it is worth refreshing ourselves by looking at where we are today. While there is little doubt that HPC remains popular in terms of science and research, its use has also spread across to other sectors. You can now find high-performance computing being put to use in fields as diverse as energy companies, carmakers, and media firms.  This diverse range is the reason that we can be sure that the interest already seen in HPC will only continue to grow.


One such example of the diverse uses that already exist for high-performance computing use, can be seen by looking at energy companies. These companies are keen to locate new sites to drill for oil and the decision-making process, relating to where to begin, is data-driven. HPC can analyze large amounts of physical, geochemical, and geological data. This analysis concludes with the likelihood of locating hydrocarbon deposits, and if drilling should take place. 


High-performance computing applications are not just centered on money-making activities. It is also used to look at weather forecasts in detail that was never before possible. The extent of data analyzed allows organizations to predict destructive weather patterns, such as hurricanes and landfalls, and take action to move people to safety before they hit. 


Then we have autonomous vehicles and the role of high-performance computing. Here, HPC utilizes machine learning that is capable of enhancing diagnostic security as well as user-experience features. 


As you can see, as things stand today, HPC can be advantageous in almost any discipline. As long as there is a need for computational power and speed, the value of HPC comes into play and provides solutions within a whole host of settings. While it can be applied to the likes of climate change, nuclear physics, animation, and even satellite image analyses, there is one area in particular where high-performance computing has proven its worth – Covid-19.


How does high-performance computing work with a pandemic?


When the world saw Covid-19 circulating at alarming rates, everyone was clear that the answer was to be found in science. There was a need to move quickly to develop medications that could be used as a treatment, as well as a need to develop vaccines and protect populations. While none of this could have been achieved without the great scientific minds working within this field, there is much to thank HPC for. In fact, it is fair to say that the pandemic has shown the world just how important high-performance computing really is.


With HPC having so much more power than regular computers, they proved to be a vital tool in the battle against Covid. The speed at which large amounts of data was analyzed meant that scientists were in a position where they had access to insights much more quickly. This allowed for a fuller exploration of the virus and for vaccines to become readily available in record time. 


Thanks to high-performance computing, the world saw millions of people being vaccinated. The next issue to be faced is the fact that this is a virus that is constantly evolving and posing new risks. HPC is playing an important role in developing strategies that will help in the fight against any future outbreaks.


In March 2020, the US Government launched the Covid-19 High-performance Computing Consortium. This was supported by the likes of Google, IBM, and NASA. It saw bodies being brought together from around the world and allowing access to the most powerful computers in the world – all in aid of stifling a pandemic and preventing future outbreaks.


The rise of the supercomputer


As time goes on, we will see computers becoming increasingly powerful. These will be machines that are capable of intensive data processes, the likes of which were once unimaginable. Indeed, this prediction of the future of high-performance computing is simply based on what is happening here and now. Take, for example, the Cambridge-1. This was launched in July 2021 and became the UK’s most powerful computing machine.


Of course, the USA is not set to be left behind. In fact, as a country, it plans to far exceed the capabilities of Cambridge-1 when it launches El Captain in 2023. This is a development for AMD and Hewlett Packard and, in theory, this will be the fastest supercomputer in the world. It is set to run faster than the fastest 200 supercomputers of today, combined. This means that the expectation is that it will be able to perform two quintillion calculations, each and every second.


We live in a world where technology progresses at an astonishing rate. Both Cambridge and, the planned, El Captain are evidence of this. Of course, 2023 is just a year away. What the next 5,10, or 15 years may hold in terms of computing power is open-ended. There is little doubt that the boundaries will continue to be pushed and high-performance computing will only gain in speed and capabilities. 


The reality is that such powerful machines will not be free of challenges. For one, there will be the monetary aspect. Setting up an infrastructure and HPC system of this kind will see the need for huge capital expenditure. 


Next-generation high-performance computing


As HPC evolves, we will witness the next generation come to the fore. This will be defined by even faster connections, scalable storage, greater security, increased workload performance, and a significant shift towards being eco-friendly. Given the vast amount of energy that is consumed by high-performance counting, the latter may well prove to be the biggest challenge. 


The future of high-performance computing architecture will see more powerful computer nodes. There will be more cores, more accelerators, and newer memory. These developments will allow HPC to handle workloads at an intensity never witnessed before.


Even with these developments, the demand for faster, more reliable computing platforms will not subside. Organizations will face the prospect of drowning in data unless HPC continues to develop and to do so at pace. This is the reason that we will see greater integration of HPC and artificial intelligence (AI). What we will be left with are machines capable of superhuman intelligence, able to perform any task that we require in an instant. 


Companies will get left behind 


As with any revolution, if a company fails to adapt and get on board, it simply falls by the way. When it comes to high-performance computing, we have already seen a small section of the industries and sectors that can benefit. The list is almost endless and it is hard to imagine an area that would see no benefits at all.


If companies choose to ignore this developing technology, their competitors will simply blaze ahead. Any organization that fails to embrace HPC will be at a distinct disadvantage. 

The journey from here to there


As it stands, the majority of organizations lack the infrastructure that is required to host their own high-performance computing systems. This means that we are likely to see more and more companies turn to cloud services. This will allow them to start to experience the benefits of HPC on an almost pay as you go basis, without the need for large upfront costs. This will see the demand for HPC services growing exponentially. 


What one organization will require from a high-performance computing system will vary wildly from another. This means that to take advantage of the future of HPC, organizations will need to be clear on their needs as well as the high-performance computing service providers that can offer them.


The reality is that high-performance computing has already had a dramatic impact. It is not an exaggeration to say that it has literally changed the world. There are more changes to come and, as businesses realize this, they will be keen to jump in and benefit from the endless opportunities that exist. Those who invest in this technology now, stand to see significant rewards.