HPC and the cloud

Why it’s time to migrate your high-performance computing to the cloud

When there is a need for more computing power than you can find in your average PC, this is where high-performance computing (HPC) comes in. On a basic level, HPC is all about aggregating computer power in such a way that it packs more of a punch than traditional computers and servers. It allows for the processing of data, and solving of calculations, at speeds that were once unfathomable. When you are aware that quadrillions of calculations can be solved every second, it becomes clear just how powerful HPC is.

 

In this article, we’re going to explore just what HPC is, how it works, and why it is so important. We’re also going to take a look at high-performance computing vs cloud computing and consider the advantages of migrating to the cloud rather than an on-premise set-up. As you will see, HPC is a vital part of our world today, as well as for our future. 

 

How does high-performance computing work?

 

When you consider certain workloads, such as DNA sequencing, these are too immense and overly complex for a single machine to process. A high-performance computing environment is set up to address these complex tasks by creating HPC clusters (connected groups) that work together on huge computing tasks in very short time periods. There are varied workloads that HPC can be run on, and these are the two most common:

 

Parallel workloads

These refer to computational problems that are serrated into simple, small, and independent tasks. These can usually all be run at the same time without the need for any communication between them. An example could be a company looking at millions of credit card records. By its nature, processing a credit card record is a small task. However, rather than one small task, we are now looking at millions of them. HPC can perform these all at once, in parallel, at record speeds. 

 

Tightly coupled workloads

This sees a large shared workload being taken and broken down into smaller tasks. These tasks are continually communicating with each other. Examples of tightly coupled workloads include the likes of material simulations, weather forecasting, and traffic management, to name just a few. 

 

Why is high-performance computing important?

 

The importance and the benefits brought about by high-performance computing can be seen in all areas of life. HPC has assisted the likes of scientists, engineers, and designers to solve the types of problems that are far too complex for traditional computing setups. This is why, although HPC will continue to develop, it is something that is here for the long term. The main benefits that can be realized by HPC include:

 

A reduction in physical testing

Where physical tests were once needed, HPC has shown itself as a viable alternative. Its power means that it is capable of creating simulations that do away with the need for physical tests. One such example can be seen by looking at testing cars and their performance during accidents. Rather than going to the expense of creating a test crash, a simulation can bring the same results.

 

Speed

One of the greatest benefits seen in high-performance computing is the speed at which tasks can be completed. HPC brings together the latest CPUs and GPUs meaning that massive calculations can be performed at astonishing speeds, taking minutes as opposed to weeks or even months.

 

Cost

High-performance computing brings cost savings to organizations. When you consider that HPC can also be run on the cloud, even smaller businesses are able to realize the benefits.

 

Innovation 

You don’t need to search for long before you come across stories of HPC being responsible for groundbreaking discoveries. Some scientific advancements, that are a result of high power computing, have changed the world and brought huge improvements in the quality of life for millions. 

 

High-performance computing jobs

 

In terms of the innovation that we have just mentioned, high-performance computing operates across a multitude of sectors and industries, bringing benefits to them all. More and more businesses are utilizing HPC in their operations and the market value is expected to reach almost $40 billion by 2027.

 

When you consider just how many industries that see benefits from HPC, it is clear to see what makes it a safe investment. Here’s a look at just a few of the industries that are reaping the benefits:

Retail

Retailers have access to staggering amounts of data when it comes to shopping habits. High-performance computing allows retailers to analyze this so that offers and recommendations can become laser targeted. Personalizing offers in this way leads to an improvement in customer service. 

 

Aerospace

If you’re going to fly in an aircraft, there are advantages to knowing how it is going to perform in advance. High-performance computing has the capability to create complex simulations that give an insight into exactly how a craft will behave and react in certain circumstances. 



Oil and gas

There is increasing demand for oil and gas in the world, and HPC is one of the most effective ways of locating it. The use of spatial analyses, as well as testing reservoir models, are used to predict where oil and gas resources are located. HPC can also assist in getting the most from existing sites.

 

Fintech

There has been a significant rise in the number of fintech companies that are operating. Some are moving away from typical assessments of customers when it comes to offering financial products. Rather than a traditional credit check, they are relying on mountains of other data that allow them to make informed decisions. HPC sees such data processed accurately, and at speed.

 

Autonomous cars

High-performance computing is used in the development of self-drive cars. It is used to create simulations as well as assist in design aspects that make the cars safer, and more efficient. 



Medical

HPC has numerous uses in the medical field. It is used to research drugs as well as develop vaccines. One major use of HPC has been developing cures and treatments for diseases such as cancer and diabetes. It has also helped with speeding up the diagnosis of patients.

 

Genomics

Sequencing DNA is no small feat. It takes a phenomenal amount of computing power to do this successfully. This is where high-performance computing comes in. As well as DNA sequencing, it is also used to analyze interactions between drugs as well as offer insights into ancestry.

 

Media and entertainment

High-performance computing is behind some of the very best special effects that you will have ever seen in films. It is also used in the editing process as well as being used to transcode huge media files. 

 

The high-performance computing environment 

 

When an organization looks at making the most of high-performance computing, they are presented with several options. They can opt for on-premise HPC, cloud, or a hybrid approach. 

 

An on-premise set-up sees an organization build its own HPC cluster consisting of servers, storage solutions, as well as other infrastructure. As time passes, the organization is also responsible for upgrading these and monitoring performance. Opting for a cloud approach, the service provider is responsible for the setup and the organization pays for what it needs to access.

 

Some organizations that already have on-premise deployment will explore the hybrid approach. This could be when they need access to faster speeds, or to run a different kind of workload, on an ad hoc basis.

 

The challenges faced by on-premise high-performance computing 

 

There are organizations that are attracted to the on-premise high-performance computing environment because of the degree of control that it gives them. It sees them having complete ownership of operations, but with that come numerous issues that need to be faced:

 

  • There is the need to invest capital upfront for the right equipment
  • Following the initial investment, there is the need for continual upgrades 
  • There are management and operational costs to be factored in
  • There may be queue times that delay users from running their workload

 

It is these challenges that have led organizations to explore cloud-based high-performance computing. By running HPC in the cloud, organizations have the advantage of only paying for what they need. They can also increase what they have access to as and when there is a need to. Those offering high permanence computing as a cloud service will also usually offer the very latest in equipment. The need for an organization to upgrade and maintain is gone, as the service provider takes responsibility for this. 

 

Choosing an HPC service provider

 

If you opt to explore the advantages that are offered by HPC, these are some of the things that you should be looking for in a provider:

 

Top-performing equipment

A high-performance computing service should come with the very best in equipment. It should be using the most up to date processors, network technologies, and storage. 

 

Experience 

You should check that any provider has a wealth of experience running various high-performance computing workloads for differing client types. 

 

Clear price structure

You will find that many services run on a pay as you go basis. Be sure to understand exactly what you will be paying for and that there are no hidden costs. 

 

There is little doubt that the future of HPC is vast. As more and more companies realize the benefits that this offers, they will make the move away from an on-premise set-up in order to maximize the benefits that HPC can bring to their company.