High-performance computing (HPC) is about quickly processing massive influxes of data. It refers to using powerful computing systems to solve complex problems requiring significant computational resources. Intel states that supercomputers (e.g., exascale and zettascale computing) are “a million times more powerful than a laptop.” HPC is delivered via clusters of computers to multiply computing power (i.e., parallel processing) or a supercomputer (paying tribute to its potential potency and effectiveness) to quickly remedy a business’s most difficult and pressing concerns. According to Cision, HPC is best suited for applications requiring high data computation and analysis levels, including “high-frequency trading, autonomous vehicles, genomics-based personalized medicine, computer-aided design, deep learning, and more.” Most importantly, there’s a growing demand for HPC, with research finding that the global market is expected to reach $50.3 billion by 2028. That equates to a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.3%, with 2021 revenues coming in at $34.9 billion. The most significant game changers in HPC helping to drive those numbers are simulations, engineering, and design solutions, largely fueled by advances in AI. Large corporations, universities, and government institutions are the first contenders in line for HPC transformations. These entities find it most useful for financial services and research and development (R&D). Meanwhile, the biosciences industry leads the way in AI-powered HPC growth, followed by government, manufacturing, finance, and energy. Ultimately, businesses that choose to embrace HPC can stay one step ahead. HPC empowers businesses with faster data analysis, improved product development, enhanced operational efficiency, personalized customer experiences, advanced risk analysis, and competitive research and development. These capabilities enable businesses to make better-informed decisions, innovate faster, optimize operations, and outperform their competition.
What’s New in High-Performance Computing (HPC) for 2023?
Cloud technology and artificial intelligence (AI) are the hot ticket items for HPC in 2023. Hybrid HPC architectures combining on-premises infrastructure and cloud-based resources are gaining popularity, with good reason. This blended approach allows businesses to scale their computing resources flexibly, taking advantage of the cloud’s agility and cost-efficiency while leveraging the true power of on-premises systems for specific workloads or sensitive data. Meanwhile, AI and machine learning (ML) are making their mark in HPC as the trio increasingly intersects, enabling large-scale training and inference tasks. HPC systems accelerate AI workloads, optimize neural network models, and process massive datasets, facilitating advancements in image recognition, natural language processing, and autonomous systems. Other trends and advancements shaping the field of HPC in recent years and going into 2023 include:
- Exascale Computing: With the capability of performing a quintillion (10^18) calculations per second, this technology unlocks new possibilities for scientific research, advanced simulations, and data analysis.
- Accelerator Technologies (i.e., Data Processing Units or DPUs): Designed to handle specific workloads and deliver substantial performance gains in parallel processing, HPC systems rely on specialized hardware accelerators like GPUs (Graphics Processing Units), FPGAs (Field-Programmable Gate Arrays), and ASICs (Application-Specific Integrated Circuits) to boost computational power.
- Quantum Computing: A step up from exascale computing and supercomputers, QC systems serve as accelerators to existing HPC systems, delivering superior results for certain types of calculations currently intractable for classical systems. Researchers are also exploring its applications in cryptography, optimization problems, quantum simulations, and modeling of more complex molecules specifically for advanced pharmacological developments.
- Data-Centric Computing: With the proliferation of big data, HPC systems are focusing on more data-centric architecture designs to minimize data movement, improve memory systems, optimize I/O operations, and get a better handle on the ever-increasing volume and velocity of data.
- Energy Efficiency: Energy consumption and efficiency have become significant concerns as HPC systems grow in scale and complexity. So, to reduce the environmental impact and operational costs of HPC systems, researchers and engineers are working on developing more energy-efficient hardware, innovative cooling techniques, and power management strategies.
- Composable Infrastructure: This is an architectural approach that enables organizations to dynamically compose and recompose resources to meet the specific needs of different workloads, allowing for increased flexibility, efficiency, scalability, resource optimization, and reduced management complexity.
Which Industries Use High-Performance Computing?
High-performance computing (HPC) benefits many industries that require substantial computational power to solve complex problems and process large-scale or big data. Aside from heavy-duty problem-solving, various industry leaders leverage the capability of HPC to drive innovation and achieve significant advancements in their respective fields, keeping their competitive edge. Examples of industries that commonly employ HPC include:
The aerospace industry uses HPC for aerodynamic simulations, structural analysis, and designing advanced aircraft. Defense sectors use HPC for cryptography, signal processing, and simulation of complex military scenarios.
HPC is used in the automotive industry for crash simulations, aerodynamics analysis, engine optimization, and virtual prototyping. The use of HPC in the automotive space helps improve vehicle safety, performance, and fuel efficiency.
The energy industry, including oil and gas companies, uses HPC for reservoir simulations, seismic imaging, optimization of drilling processes, and modeling of energy systems. It also aids exploration, production optimization, and development of renewable energy technologies.
HPC is most beneficial in financial services for risk modeling, algorithmic trading, portfolio optimization, and fraud detection. It enables the processing of large amounts of financial data and the execution of complex mathematical models.
Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
The pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries use HPC for drug discovery, molecular modeling, genomics research, and personalized medicine. It helps analyze vast amounts of biological data and simulates the behavior of molecules and proteins.
Weather and Climate
HPC is used extensively in weather forecasting, climate modeling, and climate change research. It enables the analysis of massive amounts of meteorological data and the simulation of complex atmospheric dynamics.
Manufacturing and Engineering
Manufacturing and engineering industries use HPC for simulations of processes, virtual prototyping, and optimizing designs. As a result, it aids in improving product quality, reducing costs, and shortening development cycles.
Academic and Research Institutions
HPC is widely used in academic and research institutions across various disciplines, including physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, and computer science. It facilitates complex simulations, data analysis, and scientific discoveries.
HPC is used in telecommunications for network optimization, traffic analysis, and simulation of communication protocols. It helps improve network performance, reliability, and security.
Media and Entertainment
The media and entertainment industry uses HPC for high-resolution graphics, video editing, special effects, and virtual reality applications. It enables the creation of visually stunning and immersive content.
Examples of High-Performance Computing Applications
High-performance computing (HPC) benefits a wide range of applications. As technology advances, it plays a vital role in solving increasingly complex problems across various scientific, industrial, and research domains. Examples of high-performance computing applications include:
Weather and Climate Modeling
HPC stimulates and predicts weather patterns, climate change scenarios, and natural disasters. However, these models require massive computational power to process large-scale data and complex algorithms.
Computational Fluid Dynamics
HPC plays a crucial role in simulating fluid flow and heat transfer in the aerospace, automotive, and energy fields. It helps optimize designs, improve aerodynamics, and enhance efficiency by analyzing complex fluid dynamics phenomena.
Molecular Dynamics and Drug Discovery
HPC simulates the behavior of molecules and proteins, enabling drug discovery and design. In addition, it helps in understanding molecular interactions, predicting drug efficacy, and screening potential candidates for further development.
Genome Sequencing and Bioinformatics
HPC enables the analysis of vast amounts of genetic data, facilitating genome sequencing, personalized medicine, and genetic research. It helps biologists, scientists, or researchers identify patterns, understand genetic diseases, and study species’ evolution.
Financial Modeling and Risk Analysis
HPC is employed in financial institutions for portfolio optimization, risk analysis, and high-frequency trading tasks. It enables complex mathematical models and simulations to analyze market trends, assess risk exposure, and make informed investment decisions.
HPC models and simulates astrophysical phenomena like galaxy formation, stellar evolution, and black hole dynamics. These simulations provide insights into the universe’s origins, behavior, and evolution.
Large-Scale Simulations and Virtual Prototyping
HPC is utilized in various industries, including engineering, manufacturing, and architecture, to simulate and optimize designs before physical prototyping. Its use helps reduce costs, improve efficiency, and identify potential issues early in development.
HPC is crucial in simulating nuclear reactions, nuclear fusion, and radiation transport. These simulations aid in designing nuclear power plants, analyzing the behavior of nuclear materials, and enhancing nuclear weapon security.
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
HPC accelerates training and inference processes in machine learning and AI models. It enables processing vast amounts of data, optimization of algorithms, and deployment of real-time intelligent systems.
Seismic Imaging and Exploration
HPC is used in the oil and gas industry to process seismic data, enabling the imaging and analysis of subsurface structures. This helps locate and assess potential oil and gas reserves.
Implementing HPC: What Are the Top Considerations for HPC Infrastructure?
Effectively implementing high-performance computing (HPC) requires careful planning, investment in appropriate resources, and adherence to best practices. Regular evaluation and optimization are also essential to ensure ongoing effectiveness and keep up with evolving HPC technologies and methods. Businesses might consider HPC implementation and still lack sufficient resources or have limited hardware to assist deployment. It’s possible to scale servers and other host resources by investing in higher-end technology having optimal processors and more robust storage, enabling increased compute capacity within each component. A single server can hold most HPC software. However, a typical HPC cluster requires a minimum of three servers, including a primary node, a worker node, and a client node. These multiple servers are likely virtualized during HPC deployment to multiply the availability of effective servers in a cluster. This dedicated cluster network also requires high-bandwidth TCP/IP network tools or switches, which can be complicated and costly. On the flip side, the benefit is known to outweigh the initial investment, leading to a creditable ROI and healthy bottom line. For example, research shows that finance, manufacturing, life sciences, and transportation companies can generate additional revenue of $504 for every dollar invested in HPC. That number was slightly lower for industrial firms but still significant, at $452 in additional revenue for every dollar spent. Overall, companies in all industries saw an average increase of $38 in profits or cost savings for each dollar spent on HPC solutions. Ultimately, optimal performance, scalability, and efficiency are the primary goals when setting up an HPC infrastructure. By keeping these objectives forefront throughout the implementation process, it’s possible to design and deploy an HPC infrastructure that meets an organization’s specific needs, enhances performance, and supports demanding computational workloads effectively. Top considerations for HPC infrastructure include:
- Clear Objectives
- Skilled Personnel (i.e., Training and Documentation)
- Compute Resources (i.e., Hardware Infrastructure)
- Software Stack and Middleware
- Storage System
- Networks and Interconnects (i.e., Network Architecture)
- Performance Optimization
- Power and Cooling
- System Management and Monitoring
- Security and Access Control
- Data Backup and Recovery
- Collaboration and Workflow (i.e., Workload Management)
Overcoming High-Performance Computing (HPC) Challenges
HPC offers numerous benefits. However, it’s not without its challenges. According to research, HPC ranked number one among applications creating the most significant adoption challenges per industry leaders. Its highest-ranking spot beat virtualization, AI/ML and advanced analytics, 5G/IoT adoption, simulation, modeling, container management, and hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI). Sustainability, cooling, and scalability—or the development of large-scale systems required to meet demand—are among the top challenges of HPC. Also, accessibility (i.e., lack of resources) and expertise (i.e., skills gaps) are valid concerns, especially for small to medium-sized businesses and among large corporations that have experienced setbacks, budget cuts, and layoffs during and following the COVID-19 pandemic. Many senior executives are pinning HPC as a top priority in 2023 and 2024. However, it requires considerable commitment and funding. Finding the right people with the skills to fit the project is also tricky. The Bureau of Labor Statistics suspects that by 2026, the U.S. engineer shortage will surpass 1.2 million, and less than 40% of DevOps job candidates will be adequately qualified to meet employers’ requirements. With stats like that, it’s no wonder that 75% of IT executives view the lack of skilled personnel as the biggest risk factor in deploying the latest technology. But there may be a solution.
How Can Oxford Help?
When you partner with Oxford for your high-performance computing (HPC) implementation needs, we promise to be with you every step of the way. We have the expert talent you require for complicated and multi-faceted technical projects. Our skilled consultants understand the complexities of HPC and have expertise in system administration, parallel programming, performance optimization, workload management, and more. Most significantly, we have The Right Talent. Right Now.®, ensuring that your projects aren’t delayed unnecessarily. We pre-vet candidates before clients express their desire to meet them. So, when we hear from you, we already have a team of experts qualified to meet your needs and ready to deploy. Finally, we work within your budget, customizing our solutions to your specific needs within your designated constraints so that you receive optimum value while remaining in the competitive loop. Oxford is committed to success and the future of business—let’s get there together.