What is High-Performance Computing?

High-performance computing (HPC) is a model of using many computing resources together to deliver more processing power than one computer could achieve. Linked together, multiple computing resources can work together on large jobs or carry out many individual tasks simultaneously.

This lets organisations manage, analyse and solve huge and complex problems. HPC solutions can range from tens to thousands of servers, each combining to process massive volumes of data and produce innovative products.

In business, this brings a significant competitive edge. The benefits of high-performance computing include time and costs saved from high-speed data analysis, producing insightful results faster than ever before. So, how does HPC work?

8 August 2022

How Does HPC Work?

HPC spreads workloads that are too big for one computer across several resources. These computing systems can be made up of tens, hundreds or even thousands of components – each coming together to give a huge total amount of processing power and completing tasks much more rapidly than single computers.

HPC Components: Computing Resource, Network, Storage

In every HPC solution, there are three major components:

  • Computing resource: The processing hardware, like servers
  • Network: Connections sending data at high speed throughout the system
  • Storage: Where the data is kept for analysis

The high-performance computing definition is a system that brings these components together to work as one. For top performance, each component must match the capabilities of the others. Slow networking, for example, can bottleneck data flow to the computing resources.

High-Performance Computing Clusters

A fully connected system of components is known as a cluster. Within an HPC cluster, each server is known as a node. High-performance computing architecture connects these nodes together to form a cluster.

The clusters’ activities can be run on various operating systems (Linux and Windows tend to be the most popular). Many users also manage their high-performance computing tasks through open-source frameworks like Apache Hadoop.

HPC workloads are typically split into embarrassingly parallel workloads or tightly coupled workloads.

Embarrassingly Parallel Workloads

Embarrassingly parallel workloads are HPC tasks that can run at the same time, entirely independently of each other. Often, these workloads are made up of millions or hundreds of millions of individual tasks in a short space of time.

An example might be a 3D simulation sent to nodes as individual pixels for parallel processing. With an HPC, these tasks can be completed almost simultaneously, whereas one resource would queue each pixel and deal with them back-to-back.

Tightly Coupled Workloads

Tightly coupled workloads, on the other hand, are tasks that need to stay in communication and depend on each other. As the data processing takes place, the nodes within the cluster communicate their results, leading to a final outcome. An example of a tightly coupled workload could be a weather forecasting task consisting of millions of calculations per second.


Why is HPC Important?

HPC gives us vastly higher processing speeds than would be possible with one machine. In academia, it gives researchers the ability to collect and analyse huge datasets quicker than ever before. It’s also crucial for scientists and engineers, helping them solve intricate questions much more quickly than standard computers.

High processing speeds have also become critical in many real-time applications, or systems dealing with vast amounts of data. With large clusters, high-performance computing applications can help advance knowledge in fields like:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning: Complex AI models like neural networks process massive amounts of data. With HPC, users can build and train deep AI models in a fraction of the time.
  • Internet of Things (IoT): Millions of IoT devices monitor and collect data in many industries. Using HPC, this data can be gathered and analysed much more quickly.
  • Simulations: The rise of big data and high-performance computing is not only applicable to data analysis. HPC can use data to generate 3D images, simulations and models, saving time and advancing knowledge.

As HPC gives organisations much more analytical power, it comes with many possible use cases.


HPC Use cases

Various case studies show the current – and potential – power of HPC. Some existing high-performance computing examples include:

  1. Financial services fraud detection: High-performance computing in finance can help systems monitor fraudulent activity in real-time. Financial institutions like Visa handle almost 2,000 transactions per second, requiring high-powered systems to constantly monitor each transaction.
  2. Weather forecasting: Advanced weather prediction models use millions of calculations per second, reacting to the latest data. With HPC, models can account for more data points, giving more granular, exacting, and accurate results through their deep learning.
  3. Healthcare services: HPC allows healthcare services to access patient information, analyse new viruses and diseases, and model new treatments much more quickly than before.
  4. Scientific research: Likewise, the vast processing power of HPC can help scientists understand incredibly complex problems like genomics and DNA sequencing. Recent HPC supercomputers decreased the time taken to analyse a genome from 150 hours to just 6 hours.
  5. Engineering: HPC allows engineers to develop models in a fraction of the time. This helps train and test new concepts in fields like automotive autonomous vehicles, logistics, and oil and gas discovery.

Overall, HPC can be used not only to develop innovative solutions, but also to speed up current workload lifecycles and analysis.


Benefits of HPC

HPC brings many benefits over a traditional computer.

High Speeds

A standard computer processor can carry out two to four billion cycles per second. This is enough for normal, day-to-day users, but is not a suitable throughput for massive apps, algorithms and datasets.

A cluster or supercomputer in a high-performance computing facility can achieve speeds into the quadrillions of calculations per second – especially if designed with advanced central processing units (CPU), graphics processing units (GPU), high-speed memory and low-latency networking. These speeds can make even the largest tasks manageable.

Reduced Costs

These faster speeds mean that users can solve problems more quickly. While the high-performance computing cost might be a short-term expense, they can save money many times over with their rapid insights, discoveries and innovations.

Scalability, Flexibility and Efficiency

High-performance computing infrastructure can be changed and optimised for unique workloads. Tuned to their specific tasks, HPCs transform how organisations manage projects – whether it’s streamlining repetitive tasks, using automation, or testing new processes quicker than before.

Competitive Advantage

As the world’s dependency on data grows, organisations using HPC will get ahead of the competition. In business, high-performance computing companies might generate insights or deliver services faster than rivals. In research, HPC will help teams innovate more rapidly. Whatever the field, HPC gives the user a competitive edge.


Challenges of HPC

High-performance computing modern systems and practices can help organisations innovate and thrive but, in some circumstances, there might also be challenges.

Data Transfer Limitations

Data transfer speeds and bandwidth can be challenging for companies first employing HPC applications. On-premises HPC infrastructure is often an obstacle. Networks might not be designed for the ultra-fast data transfer speeds that HPC needs, while uploading data to HPC systems in the first place can also be time-consuming.

Costly to Purchase

Similarly, the cost of purchasing equipment to deploy high-performance computing solutions can cause issues. Depending on the HPC workload in question, an organisation may need to purchase several computing resources at once, proving a barrier to entry for many who can’t budget for the initial payment to own their HPC infrastructure.

Data Privacy

Data privacy is essential for all companies, especially those in highly regulated fields like finance and healthcare. In these fields, personal data must be held securely and comply with many requirements. High-performance computing storage can be spread across multiple solutions, each of which must guarantee data privacy.


High-Performance Cloud Computing: What & Why is it?

High-performance cloud computing is a model that hosts, deploys and delivers high-performance solutions in the cloud. As servers, networks and storage devices are hosted in data centres designed for scale and rapid performance, organisations are freed from many of the challenges of deploying on-premises private HPC solutions.

How Cloud Computing is Useful in High-Performance Computing

For that reason, many organisations choose to host their HPC infrastructure in the cloud. This is where the hybrid cloud really shines. Combining private cloud services hosted in HPC-ready data centres with public cloud computing solutions, like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services, opens up almost endless computing possibilities.

You can also benefit from increased:

  • Cost-savings: With the public cloud, companies save upfront costs on purchasing equipment, instead only paying for the resources they use. They also benefit from the scale, expertise, and advanced infrastructure of hosting private cloud resources in HPC-ready data centres
  • Agility: Cloud HPC resources can be configured, deployed and scaled rapidly, letting users focus on results instead of management
  • Choice: Companies using the cloud can choose only the resources that match their workloads.


Future of High-Performance Computing

So, what are the future high-performance computing trends? While big data analytics continues to revolutionise almost every industry, HPC systems will help more companies create new products and analyse their resources for deeper insight.

Using the cloud, high-performance computing as a service will also give more users access to HPC. Things like high-performance edge computing, faster processors and AI will also enhance the speeds that data can be processed. This will increase the chances of HPC and big data coming together to give organisations rapid, accurate and innovative data-driven solutions.


How Interxion can Help with your High-Performance Computing Needs

High-performance computing creates a cluster of nodes to process data at scale. Companies can learn more from their data, make processes quicker, and build more robust models, giving you an edge over the competition.

At Interxion, we can help you host your ideal hybrid cloud HPC solution. Located in the heart of London, Hanbury Street – LON 3 is just one of our high-performance computing UK data centres with the infrastructure, reach and connectivity to bring your HPC project to life. Check our other data centre locations to pick your ideal spot, or contact us today for more information.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Are the Types of HPC?

The types of HPC range from a few combined nodes through to clusters of thousands of nodes. To deliver more computing power, HPC systems can include many CPUs and GPUs, along with large storage devices and rapid networking.

Is High-Performance Computing Hard?

High-performance technical computing can be difficult to purchase and implement. HPC cloud computing is often much simpler, deploying HPC solutions in data centres designed for the scale and speeds demanded by HPC.

What is the Difference Between High-Performance Computing vs Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is a model of hosting computing resources in data centres and delivering them over the internet. High-performance computing combines many computing resources to deliver high processing speeds. High-performance computing is often deployed in the cloud for ease and cost.

What is an HPC Example?

An example of HPC is a supercomputer. A supercomputer is typically made up of a vast number of powerful processors, together with massive data storage and rapid networking. This lets it carry out thousands of thousands of billions of calculations per second.

Why Do We Need HPC?

As we collect more data, we need high-performance computing solutions to manage and analyse it quickly. This is especially true in the world of big data analytics, where HPC infrastructure can handle huge numbers of calculations per second, producing faster results than ever.

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