What is HPC?

From ALICE Documentation

What is HPC?

“High-Performance Computing” (HPC) is computing on a “supercomputer”, a computer at the frontline of contemporary processing capacity – particularly speed of calculation and available memory.

While the supercomputers in the early days (around 1970) used only a few processors, in the 1990s machines with thousands of processors began to appear and, by the end of the 20th century, massively parallel supercomputers with tens of thousands of “off-the-shelf” processors were the norm. A large number of dedicated processors are placed in close proximity to each other in a computer cluster.

A computer cluster consists of a set of loosely or tightly connected computers that work together so that in many respects they can be viewed as a single system.

The components of a cluster are usually connected to each other through fast local area networks (“LAN”) with each node (computer used as a server) running its own instance of an operating system. Computer clusters emerged as a result of the convergence of a number of computing trends including the availability of low-cost microprocessors, high-speed networks, and software for high performance distributed computing.

Compute clusters are usually deployed to improve performance and availability over that of a single computer, while typically being more cost-effective than single computers of comparable speed or availability.

Nowadays, supercomputers play an important role in large variety of areas where computationally intensive problems have to be solved. This is not just limited to computational and natural sciences (Phyiscs, Astronomy, Chemistry and Biology), but also includes social and medical sciences, mathematics and much more.