HPC? Yes, I want my Supercomputer!
Most of us think of Supercomputers only in relation to science or when a big hardware company shows the latest record in performance. We lack the perception of a really important market for nations, society and enterprises, as it really is. There is evidence that High Performance Computing (HPC), as it is known, has strong links not only with the success of science or R&D programs but also with the overall economic competitiveness. For instance, an IDC study showed that 97% of companies that adopted high performance computing could no longer compete or survive without it . For these reasons, the EU has a plan to double HPC spending, up to 1,2 billion euros . Such investment will bring not only a boost in science but benefits for the citizens through breakthroughs in health (personalized medicine), better understanding of the environment (weather, hazards…) or better renewable/sustainable energy supplies, among many others. From an Enterprise point of view, HPC is a tool that helps increase the innovation pace, and so, foster growth, margins and employment.
HPC is a growing market, with an expected yearly growth of over 7% during the next 5 years. Such growth will affect almost all markets. For instance, in addition to the normal Science Institutions and Government - the biggest HPC markets nowadays - we see an increased adoption rate in Finance and in those sectors that require the use of CAD/CAE systems, with ratios around 10%. The rising need of computing power to compete in the market and the huge amount of data already available to be analyzed, used for business decisions, is helping in the wide adoption of HPC in all fields of activity. As any other IT area today, this need will be fulfilled through owned systems or by renting them in a ‘HPC as a Service’ model through experienced partners, allowing enterprises of all sizes to reap the benefits of HPC.
However, HPC also has its challenges and obstacles. Organizations do not only need a HPC system; Software is also key. And very few applications today take full advantage of HPC systems. New software design, development practices, algorithms and methods are needed to make optimal use of the capabilities of HPC systems. Performance is achieved through parallelization and software has to be tailored for this. At the same time, the power consumption of these systems, with thousands of computer cores, and the heat they generate are a real issues to take care, now that energy efficiency and sustainability are pressing organizational needs.
But the most interesting area is storage and data management. In one hand we see that data movement is key to performance at system level, where more and more applications are limited in bandwidth rather than in computing power, and this may impact the need for new algorithms. And we can also see the impact that Big Data and the rise of Data Analysis activities are having on IT needs, including simulation and analytics, fueled by the business interest of obtaining information from data. HPC will be needed to handle this huge new flow of data or to use complex algorithms. Therefore, Big Data will increase HPC adoption and will impact on HPC architectures, now based on computing performance and power, that will need to handle big data use in the near future, if not today.
So, I want my Supercomputer! With the current easy access to computer power, from Cloud services to fully owned HPC beasts, any organization that today has specific needs for high performance computing may have access to it in an effective and cost efficient way. Just like the dream of having a personal computer became a reality, this is also true for Supercomputers today!