The term “high-performance computing”, otherwise known as HPC, may sound highly sophisticated and technical, but its application is far and wide, reaching nearly every industry.
Simply put, HPC describes the utilization of computing power to process large amounts of data and perform complex calculations at incredibly high speeds. To put it into perspective, a laptop or desktop with a 3 gigahertz processor can perform around 3 billion calculations per second. While that is much faster than any human can achieve, it pales in comparison to HPC solutions that can perform quadrillions of calculations per second.
HPC’s speed and power simplify a range of low-tech to high-tech tasks in a wide variety of industries. For example, while soda cans are low-tech, even the slightest design flaw can waste tons of aluminum and millions of dollars. To combat this, HPC is being used to ensure that every element of modern cans has been “super-optimized.” Given that we use around 6,700 cans per second globally, the impact is far reaching.
Below are three more ways high-performance computing systems are being used across industries.
Our healthcare system contains massive amounts of data. HPC is helping scale and manage this data, particularly in healthcare computing operations. For instance, Hewlett Packard Enterprise hosts various hardware and software products for HPC deployment and performance, as well as AI-integrated solutions and consulting services. The company’s HPC technology allows professionals to process data in near real-time and receive insights for diagnoses, clinical trials, or immediate intervention.
HPC is even being used to refine cancer research and treatment. In a 2017 project at the University of Texas at Austin, researchers scanned petabytes of data for correlations between a cancer patient’s genome and the composition of their tumors. They’ve now using HPC to characterize and treat prostate, blood-related, liver and skin cancers.
Successful engineering depends on testing multiple prototypes, which can be expensive and sometimes dangerous. Engineers are using HPC systems to test new designs in massive computer simulations that mimic the real world with gravity, heat, wind, etc. These simulations allow engineers to simulate crash tests in the automotive industry, test the functionality of airplane parts, streamline racing bike frames, etc.
For instance, Trek Bicycles uses Rescale’s HPC platform to optimize the aerodynamics of its bikes. By running a simulation through Rescale’s interface, it can explore how bikes performed in drafting formations. Using two terabytes of on-demand computing power from Rescale, Trek has been able to quickly evaluate bike performance from multiple angles.
When it comes to space exploration, it takes a lot of resources and technological savvy to gather data that can provide us with answers. This is where HPC comes in: models that are rooted in HPC can help process the information gleaned by probes and satellites.
For instance, a project at the University of California at Berkeley is working to decipher the origins of the universe by looking for clues in the universe’s cosmic microwave background (CMB). In order to do this successfully, they have to analyze nearly one gigabyte of data every day – in real time. HPC systems are helping them manage and process this data, essentially helping them unlock the mysteries of the universe.
Similarly, HPC is also being used in meteorology to predict and track storms and other unusual weather patterns. For instance, in 2019, NASA started leveraging HPC to remotely monitor the extreme ultraviolet irradiating nature of the sun that causes solar flares, which can disrupt radio communications and GPS navigation.
While these are just a few examples of HPC’s real-world applications, we’re likely to see the expansion and evolution of HPC into nearly every part of our lives. Given the increasing need to process, analyze, and move data around faster than ever before, HPC will become increasingly integrated into every aspect of our lives.