What is High Performance Computing?

High Performance Computing most generally refers to the practice of aggregating computing power in a way that delivers much higher performance than one could get out of a typical desktop computer or workstation in order to solve large problems in science, engineering, or business.

High Performance Computing most generally refers to the practice of aggregating computing power in a way that delivers much higher performance than one could get out of a typical desktop computer or workstation in order to solve large problems in science, engineering, or business.

Scientist need HPC because they hit a tipping point.
At some point in research, there is a need to:

  • Expand the current study area (regional → national → global)
  • Integrate new data
  • Increase model resolution

But … processing on my desktop or a single server no longer works

Some typical computational barriers:

  • Time – processing on local systems is too slow or not feasible
  • CPU Capacity -- Can only run one model at a time
  • Develop, implement, and disseminate state-of-the-art techniques and tools so that models are more effectively applied to today’s decision-making
  • Management of Computer Systems – Science Groups don’t want to purchase and manage local computer systems – they want to focus on science

“I need to do multiple sampling events of multiple simulations. No way can my existing system pull that off in a timely fashion, if at all.”
~David Warner, Research Fisheries, Biologist

“We had an 80 node cluster here in Golden several years ago, but when I left for Memphis, nobody wanted to manage it. Now we have an overworked 12 node server.””
~Oliver Boyd, Research Geophysicist

What is a Supercomputer?

A supercomputer is one large computer made up of many smaller computers and processors

  • Each different computer is called a node
  • Each node has processors/cores
    • Carry out the instructions of the computer
  • With a supercomputer, all these different computers talk to each other through a communications network
    • Example - InfiniBand

Supercomputers give you the opportunity to solve problems that are too complex for the desktop. It might take hours, days, weeks, months, years but if you use a supercomputer, it might only take minutes, hours, days, or weeks.