Ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, and you will often hear aspirations like:
- “I want to be an astronaut, and go to outer space!”
- “I want to be a policeman / policewoman, and keep people safe!”
- “I want to be a doctor – I could find a cure for cancer!”
- “I want to build cars / planes / rocket ships / buildings / etc – the best ones in the world!”
- “I want to be an engineer in a high performance computing department!”
OK, that last one rarely comes up.
Actually, I’ve NEVER heard it come up.
But here’s the irony of it all…
That last item is often a major enabler for all the other items.
Surprised? A number of people are.
For many, “high performance computing” – or “HPC” for short – often has a reputation for being a largely academic engineering model, reserved for university PhDs seeking to prove out futuristic theories.
The reality is the high performance computing has influenced a number of things we take for granted on a daily basis, across a number of industries, from healthcare to finance to energy and more.
HPC has been an engineering staple in a number of industries for many years, and has enabled a number of the innovations we all enjoy on a daily basis. And it’s a critical function of how we will function as a society going forward.
Here are a few examples:
- Do you enjoy driving a car or other vehicle? Thank an HPC department at the auto manufacturer. There’s a good chance that an HPC effort was behind modeling the safety hazards that you may encounter as a driver. Unexpected road obstacles, component failure, wear and tear of parts after thousands of miles, and even human driver behavior and error.
- Have you fueled your car with gas recently? Thank an HPC department at the energy / oil & gas company. While there is innovation around electric vehicles, many of us still use gasoline to ensure we can get around. Exploring for, and finding, oil can be an arduous, time-consuming, expensive effort. With HPC modeling, energy companies can find pockets of resources sooner, limiting the amount of exploratory drilling, and get fuel for your car to you more efficiently.
- Have you been treated for illnesses with medical innovation? Thank an HPC department at the pharmaceutical firm and associated research hospitals. Progress in the treatment of health ailments can trace innovation to HPC teams working in partnership with health care professionals. In fact, much of the research done today to cure some of the world’s diseases and genomics are done on HPC clusters.
- Have you ever been proactively contacted by your bank on suspected fraud on your account? Thank an HPC department at the financial institution. Often times, banking companies will use HPC cluster to run millions of “monte carlo simulations” to model out financial fraud and intrusive hacks. The amount of models required and the depth at which they analyze requires a significant amount of processing power, requiring a stronger-than-normal computing structure.
And the list goes on and on.
- Security enablement
- Banking risk analysis
- Space exploration
- Aircraft safety
- Forecasting natural disasters
- So much more…
If it’s a tough problem to solve, more likely than not, HPC is involved.
And that’s what’s so galvanizing about HPC. It is a computing model that enables us to do so many of the things we take for granted today, but is also on the forefront of new innovation coming from multiple industries in the future.
HPC is also a place where emerging technologies get early adoption, mainly because experts in HPC require new tech to get even deeper into their trade. Open source is a major staple of this group of users, especially with deep adoption of Linux.
You also see early adoption of open source cloud tech like OpenStack (to help institutions share compute power and storage to collaborate) and of open source distributed storage tech like Ceph (to connect highly performant file systems to colder, back up storage, often holding “large data.”) I anticipate we will see this space be among the first to broadly adopt tech in Internet-of-Things (IoT), blockchain, and more.
HPC has been important enough that the governments around the world have funded multiple initiatives to drive more innovation using the model. Here are a few examples:
- The National Strategic Computing Initiative
- The Cancer Moonshot Program
- The Exascale Computing Project
- The STEM Program for Students (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)
This week, there is a large gathering of HPC experts in Salt Lake City (SuperComputing16) for engineers and researchers to meet / discuss / collaborate on enabling HPC more. From implementing tech like cloud and distributed storage, to best practices in modeling and infrastructure, and driving progress more in medicine, energy, finance, security, and manufacturing, this should be a stellar week of some of the best minds around. (SUSE is out here as well – David has a great blog here on everything that we’re doing at the event.)
High performance computing: take a second look – it may be much more than you originally thought.
And maybe it can help revolutionize YOUR industry.
Until next time,