What is High Performance Computing?

The terms High Performance Computing and Supercomputing are sometimes used interchangeably. High Performance Computing most generally refers to the practice of aggregating computing power in a way that delivers much higher performance than one could get out of a typical desktop computer or workstation in order to solve large scientific, engineering, or business problems.

How can it help our business, what benefits can we reap?

List of HPC benefits are endless, but to mention just a few:

HPC is a great tool for research, development and innovation that leads to socio-economic impact in form of better solutions for societal challenges and increased industrial competitiveness in the region and international. The Zimbabwe HPC system shall be used in different domains by scientists, engineers, economists and others to solve complex problems and to acquire knowledge from simulations.

Why move over to HPC from our current system?

Its incomparable computing power exceeds the capabilities of ordinary personal computers and universal servers. If you are running applications that require high computational power and accuracy that cannot be done by an ordinary server computer our HPC system is your answer with its capability of running high-tech applications that can model and simulate complex situations.

Do we require training to use the system?

Definitely HPC users’ needs to be trained by the Centre on how to access and run their specific application.

Can you give examples of where HPC has been used?

There are hundreds of examples of where HPC has been successfully used in industry, manufacturing, academia, public and private sector. In many industries it has become a well-established technology, whereas in others it is just starting to be used. Just a few examples are given below:

  • Airbus views HPC as an essential technology. Design of the A380 would have been impossible without HPC to simulate airflow over the structure and the combustion processes in the engines.
  • HPC numerical simulation is recognized at Électricité de France (EDF) as an indispensable tool. It has been used for a long time in such important operational matters as optimizing day-to-day production, or choosing the safest and most effective configurations for nuclear refueling. However most of the advances towards higher levels of performance have been driven by the constant need to explain complex physical phenomena behind maintenance issues better, to assess the impact of potential modifications or new vendor technology and to anticipate changes in operating or regulatory conditions.
  • Formula 1 racing teams such as Renault use HPC to optimize the design of their cars using aerodynamic simulations.

Desktop computers keep getting faster, why don’t I just wait for a faster PC?

There is a simple reason why waiting for a faster PC to run your code may not be the wisest option. Firstly it might allow competitors to overtake you. HPC could be seen as the way to get that faster computer today rather than in a year’s time. It might cost a competitor more to invest in HPC, but if they do so and take your market share, you might end up the big loser. Furthermore, it is no longer clear that desktop systems will really make many applications run faster year on year. The multicore systems which are now ubiquitous will not necessarily make an individual application run faster.

What’s the difference between HPC and Cloud Computing?

The term cloud computing has been in use now for a few years. Basically it’s a model for how you can access computing facilities, rather than being about the technologies themselves. In the cloud paradigm you buy the computing as service, rather than owning and maintaining your own systems. The main attraction to the user is that it might be (but is not guaranteed to be) lower cost and the drawback is that you have less control of the resources and less ability to specify what you want.

How can I access the system?

The system is deployed via Virtual Private Network (VPN) for remote users hence a user needs to establish a remote network connection. The system can also be accessed by users who can physically visit and connect at the Centre through Local Area Network connection.

What will it cost us to acquire the service?

There is a minimum usage cost.