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What is HPC?

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“High Performance Computing” (HPC) is computing on a “Supercomputer ”, a computer with 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 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.

Supercomputers play an important role in the field of computational science, and are used for a wide range of computationally intensive tasks in various fields, including quantum mechanics, weather forecasting, climate research, oil and gas exploration, molecular modelling (computing the structures and properties of chemical compounds, biological macromolecules, polymers, and crystals), and physical simulations (such as simulations of the early moments of the universe, airplane and spacecraft aerodynamics, the detonation of nuclear weapons, and nuclear fusion).1

1Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supercomputer