High performance computing's impact has exploded in the past few years. Most notably, the technology has become far more affordable and widely available. In addition to major multinational corporations, small and medium-sized business can now take advantage of these solutions to improve their operations and gain invaluable insight that would otherwise remain unavailable.
However, it is important to note that HPC's growing significance is not limited to the realm of business. Additionally, the technology is proving to be increasingly and vitally important to universities around the world, as a number of recent developments demonstrated.
HPC at home
One example of HPC's impact can be found at Virginia Tech. As Phys.org reported, Shengfeng Cheng, as assistant professor with the Department of Physics, has created an HPC system that permits him to design molecules on the atomic level. This allows Cheng to develop previously nonexistent materials with unique, useful properties.
"Computation can auto-rule out a thousand structural combinations before a single wet-lab experiment is even run," Cheng told the news source. "Infinite possibilities – that's what we compute."
According to Phys.org, Cheng's HPC system, known as IMAGINE, allows researchers to circumvent the trial-and-error process, and to instead run simulations that identify the best possible design for a given structure.
"IMAGINE is the university's first high-performance computing resource dedicated exclusively to materials by design," said Matthew Hull, program manager of the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Thrust, the source reported. "IMAGINE will connect our faculty working at the interfaces of physics, chemistry, computation, materials science and engineering and advanced manufacturing in a truly unique way."
Phys.org reported that Cheng and Timothy Long, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, are working to create membranes of charged polymers that could be deployed to improve water purification and ion conduction efforts. Such breakthroughs will be heavily dependent on leveraging HPC.
Also making strides in the realm of HPC usage is Indiana University Bloomington. A team of computer scientists at the school recently received a $5 million award from the National Science Foundation to fund a project for utilizing big data in a variety of scientific disciplines. HPC is critical for these efforts, as IU Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and Informatics Geoffrey Fox explained.
"Many scientific problems depend on the ability to analyze and compute large amounts of data, but this analysis often does not scale well," Fox said. "Our project will integrate features of traditional high-performance computing, such as scientific libraries and communication and resource management middleware, with a rich set of capabilities already found in the commercial big data ecosystem."
The importance of HPC for the academic world is not limited to the United States. As a separate Phys.org report highlighted, the technology plays a major role in Germany. There, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) recently received admittance to the German Gauss-Allianz as a full member, thereby improving the school's standing as an HPC leader.
"[I]t is primarily the work of the scientists and their teams that has placed Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in this top tier of high-performance computing," said Doris Ahnen, Minister of Education, Science, Continuing Education and Culture of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate, the source reported. "For Mainz as a science hub, this honor is very significant and will further enhance its appeal."
The source noted that HPC technology is having a growing influence on a variety of scientific fields for JGU, including physics, computer science, genome research and theoretical chemistry.
"The access to state-of-the-art and sufficient capacity for high-performance computing has become a location-related factor that also significantly determines the competitiveness of our research," said Professor Georg Krausch, president of JGU, the source reported.
Making the most of HPC
As these and countless other events have demonstrated, research universities need to invest heavily in HPC resources in order to provide their scientists, students and educators with the means of advancing their efforts to the highest possible level. Obviously, such investments must include the physical equipment and software development tools necessary for an HPC deployment.
It’s critical for decision-makers to invest in tools that complement development, such as debuggers specific to HPC. These solutions allow users to decrease the complexity of the debugging process, as well as migrate and upgrade HPC platforms quickly and easily. With a high-quality HPC debugger in place, these systems become more agile, more user-friendly and, ultimately, more useful for researchers in every field.