High-performance computing (HPC), or big computing, used to be a privilege only big enterprise computer labs and government research departments could enjoy. However, with the rise of blockchain, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), big data is now merely another facet of marketing and business strategy.
While these technologies are quickly evolving, not all companies can house the hardware and software it takes to collect information from countless customers and platforms. This article will explore what HPC is and how data centers enable it to process vast quantities of data.
What industries use high-performance computing?
A desktop computer can quickly process complex calculations that would typically take a person hours to solve. However, imagine multiplying those calculations by billions of new data input variables, and it may take your computer even longer — if it could come to a solution at all. HPC can cover new data and solve complex problems at higher speeds when compared with a desktop or laptop.
For example, while a desktop computer can process three billion calculations per second, an HPC can perform quadrillions.
HPC works to process data quickly and in real-time, making game-changing and groundbreaking innovations possible. As AI, 3-D imaging and IoT continue to evolve, the use of HPC also grows more vital.
According to Emergen Research, the top businesses who provide HPC solutions, by yearly revenue, include:
Because HPC can bring together data analytics and AI at faster speeds, these top companies are all, unsurprisingly, found within the cloud-computing and IT industries. But companies operating in other industries can leverage the power of HPC as well.
This could include:
- Research labs
- Oil and gas
- Media and entertainment
- Government and defense.
Data centers that support HPC can cater to customers’ growing needs for fast networking while keeping pace with an increasingly digitized landscape.
Three key components of HPC
To build an infrastructure to accommodate HPC, it’s important to know the three key components of an HPC cluster: compute, network, and storage. An efficient HPC system requires a cluster of computer services and software programs that work together to run algorithm programs. Each module will need to keep pace with the others in the cluster; otherwise, the entire HPC system will become obsolete.
The goal of HPC is to perform high-speed calculations, and that requires aggregating computer power from across different hardware types. Data centers have the space and the power to house the computer systems and hardware necessary to support HPC operations. HPC compute alone needs power and cooling coordination that most businesses cannot handle.
To accommodate the vast data processed by HPC, its storage system should be offloaded from the CPUs as often as possible without interrupting the computing operation. The HPC storage system needs to meet all of these needs according to Weka:
- Data from any node is available at any time
- Data available must be the most up-to-date
- Can handle data requests no matter the size
- Supports performance-oriented protocols
- Uses the latest storage technology (such as SSDs)
- Scales up to the millisecond to keep up with constant latencies
The topology of an HPC network is very different from your office intranet. In addition to the extreme demands of the constant data transfer between CPU and storage, the many distinct computing components that make up the HPC environment are considered a single computer, pulled together by a “fabric.” Daily Dug’s 2021 HPC networking series notes that, “the critical concept with HPC fabrics is to have massive amounts of scalable bandwidth (throughout) whilst keeping the latency ultra-low.”
Given the density of HPC infrastructures and the heat generated, cooling can be a significant challenge. Traditional hot aisle containments utilized by modern data centers can efficiently cool the 50kW HPC racks of today. Looking ahead, future HPC clusters may increase density and spur data centers to implement more generally available liquid cooling. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a research and development organization dedicated to finding solutions for energy challenges, liquid cooling can offer as much as 1,000 times the cooling capacity of air cooling solutions, and in a smaller physical footprint. A data center that can accommodate liquid cooling infrastructure will provide tremendous deployment flexibility and future-proof customers.
How data centers support HPC
Data centers have been around since the 1940s and the first computer-specific data rooms were used for military purposes. As compute and storage requirements have risen exponentially in the decades since, and their application extended to every area of life, organizations have increasingly looked to dedicated data centers to house their infrastructure.
To reduce costs and outpace competition, outsourcing data center infrastructure has become all but necessary since the advent of HPC. HPC is a powerful but demanding solution in terms of density, heat, and bandwidth. As more enterprises seek to leverage its potential, they will increasingly look to colocation data centers that specialize in solving the challenges that arise from the heat and power density required by many high-powered computers operating simultaneously. In addition to advanced cooling, durable data center environments like those of Sabey Data Centers offer the affordable power, network options, scalability, redundancy, and security demanded by HPC.
Will you be scaling your organization with high performance computing? Learn more about how to get started in your own colocation solution by contacting us today.