High performance computing is not exactly a new technology. For years now, organizations in both the public and private sector have utilized these resources for research, simulations and other highly complex, demanding computational tasks. Without a doubt, such efforts had a significant influence in numerous fields. However, these past contributions pale compared to HPC's current influence. As the technology has become more sophisticated and more affordable, its possible applications have expanded tremendously, along with its overall impact.
HPC's advancing capabilities
WhaTech contributor James Martin recently highlighted this trend. He noted that even small and medium-sized enterprises now regularly take advantage of HPC's advancing capabilities. As a result, the technology's influence has expanded to all economic sectors, including manufacturing, retail, media, government, energy, transportation, gaming and much more.
A big factor in this expansion of HPC influence is the rise of cloud computing, Martin noted. Cloud-based services have made it possible for companies to take advantage of HPC technology without the extremely costly upfront investment that was previously required for any firm interested in HPC tools.
Additionally, the growing number of HPC manufacturers around the world has led to more competitive pricing, which makes the technology even more feasible for smaller organizations.
This trend toward more widely available HPC resources is having broad, powerful effects, according to Scientific Computing contributor Don Johnston. He argued that even though the general public is largely unaware of the technology or its role, HPC's impact "reaches into almost every aspect of daily life."
The writer went on to highlight a number of key examples of HPC's growing influence in various industries. In the manufacturing sector, numerous companies are now either investing in HPC or partnering with HPC-capable firms to better understand the nature of their products and develop new innovations.
For example, he noted that Proctor & Gamble worked with Temple University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to examine shampoo formulas on a molecular level in order to improve performance. Such modeling and simulation has had a major influence, allowing companies to reduce their experimentation efforts by 50 percent or more, according to Tom Lange, associate director of modeling and simulation with Proctor & Gamble.
Numerous other manufacturers, such as aircraft developers and car companies, have seen similar improvements, the author reported. Meanwhile, in the health care sector, organizations are leveraging HPC in order to develop new drugs and other treatment options, as well as create more accurate, useful models of disease behaviors.
Lastly, the writer reported that agencies are using HPC tools to improve public safety around the world. Notably, the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill's Renaissance Computing Institute relies on this technology to predict approaching storms earlier and more accurately, thereby giving locals more time to reach safety.
"We don't expect HPC to become the hot topic of dinnertime conversation anytime soon," said Trish Damkroger, a deputy director for Computation at Lawrence Livermore, the writer reported. "However, as the benefits of supercomputing become more evident, we do expect growing recognition that HPC matters to our quality of life, economic well-being and security."
This trend is unlikely to slow down any time soon. Instead, more organizations will embrace HPC in a broader range of capacities, using the technology to develop increasingly sophisticated, effective operations.
To maximize results and efficiency, firms getting into HPC need to ensure they have the best possible complementary tools in place. Specifically, companies should look for HPC debuggers that deliver effective control over multiple processes and threads simultaneously – behavior that many developers don’t realize exists. With such a solution in place, organizations can reduce their testing costs and time to market, thereby gaining the most value from their HPC investments.