This year has seen the increased interest in and uptake of HPC-on-Demand – accessing significant compute processing power over the internet only when the user wants it. The rise of HPC-on-Demand is driven by the major challenges of integrating HPC systems in house, for example, environmental issues, i.e. where to put the cluster of servers so that noise doesn’t affect workers, how to manage its use of energy and control its heat omissions. All this needs to be managed by highly skilled specialists using innovative, but costly technologies like hot or cold water-cooling and cleverly designed server rooms or data centres.
HPC-on-Demand has become more appealing, however it is not yet a ‘plug and play’ cloud service. It is not like running your exchange server in the Cloud or the salesforce.com CRM application. HPC can be difficult to manage with lots of software codes requiring different set-ups. HPC needs fast interconnections and decent memory per core. There are still a lot of questions to be answered around security and latency. It still needs human excellence for it to work, so HPC-on-Demand providers need to fulfil this role guiding customers through the process. Perhaps we should call it HPC ‘by-appointment’?
Away from HPC-on-Demand, what has really taken off this year is the use of hardware accelerators, particularly graphics processing units (GPUs). With very high memory bandwidth to accelerate certain computing processes, GPUs and other accelerates are being used to accelerate certain computing processes and speed up simulation, modeling, visualisation, and data analysis.
Another big challenge that is only going to get worse is the increase in the amount of digital data that needs to be processed on a daily basis. Data is increasing exponentially and since the start of 2011 to the end of 2012, there has been more data created alone in that time period than from the start of 2011 since the dawn of time. This is where HPC is starting to meet the everyday world.
So, another year of progress and we will look forward to taking on new challenges in the New Year!