High-performance computing has evolved a lot over the past 50 years or so – and not just the technology. Equally significant as the progress that the field has made in terms of its capabilities is HPC's expanding impact. While these solutions were formerly used in very exclusive, limited capacities – for advanced scientific research, most notably – now HPC has become far more widely available, to the point where even small to mid-sized firms in a range of industries can take advantage of HPC solutions.
We fully see this trend as a positive, with the potential to deliver huge benefits to countless organizations. However, we also feel that a certain amount of caution is in order. HPC's value, while tremendous, is also dependent on firms using the right approach. Businesses need to understand these resources and how to use them in order to see a real advantage and guarantee a positive return on investment.
Scientific Computing recently highlighted the extent of HPC's expansion into new areas.
First, they noted the case of Thinkplay.tv, a United Kingdom-based animation company. A number of years ago, the organization started looking for a better way to produce and render its content. In the past, Thinkplay.tv relied on relatively slow, painstaking processes for all of its work, with the result that each scene required days to create.
"By leveraging HPC, the company's rendering time for a typical scene dropped from four days to four hours."
HPC proved to be the ideal solution for Thinkplay.tv. By leveraging HPC, the organization's rendering time for a typical scene dropped from four days to four hours, all while the quality of animation improved. This allowed the company to take on and turn around more assignments in a shorter period of time, significantly improving the company's bottom line.
The news source then profiled Moleculomics, a small to mid-sized firm that helps pharmaceutical organizations deliver their drugs to market more quickly. A large portion of Moleculomics' operations center on protein modeling, a process that formerly required three weeks of work. After deploying HPC solutions, though, the company was able to reduce this time by 12 seconds.
"HPC enabled Moleculomics to take the lead over their competition through their ability to compute structures for all variants of proteins that are present in the population," the source explained. "They are now beginning to run screening experiments using algorithms to investigate the interaction of these variant structures with candidate compounds for drugs."
Obviously, Thinkplay.tv and Moleculomics are almost wholly unrelated companies. Yet despite their very different focuses, both now use HPC as a central part of their broader operations, and this has had a major impact on their abilities and business outcomes.
And these two cases are not unique. All over the world, companies – including small and mid-sized firms – can now afford to invest in HPC solutions, and can justify these expenditures by the tremendous anticipated ROI that such tools can deliver.
However, HPC is not an automatic, guaranteed success. As mentioned above, this technology needs to be applied appropriately for firms to gain the best possible results. This can be a challenge for firms and developers new to the domain.
A key factor to consider is how HPC applications can be debugged, to optimize their performance and prevent errors. Users need to be able to see what is happening with their HPC applications but it’s difficult to apply debugging techniques and tools from other areas to HPC. Ideally, you want to have the option of simultaneously debugging numerous processes and threads in a single window – this can simplify and speed up the process, reducing your company's testing time and costs.
That's the type of functionality that our TotalView debugger offers. With this tool in place, companies can vastly improve the performance of their HPC investments, gaining a major competitive advantage in the process.