Democratizing HPC

The democratization of technology has its origins in 1964 when the first successful high performance computing (HPC) was made available to the public. The machine was called the CDC 6600 and was designed by Seymour Cray for Control Data Corporation (CDC). It was the world’s first supercomputer. The CDC 6600 was manufactured for 5 years and sold around 100 units costing $2,370,000, equivalent to $19,780,000 today. The CDC 6600 proved to be a significant breakthrough in computing power, achieving a speed of 40 MHz or 3 million floating point operations per second (megaFLOPS) and required 982 kilobytes of memory. Unlike modern computers, it took up an entire room. 

The main functions of the HPC during its early years were specialized computations for complex  physical phenomena,  mathematical modeling and scientific research and was used primarily by universities and the military. HPC also contributed to innovations that led to some of our modern day conveniences such as facial recognition and self-driving cars. Moore’s law states that every year technology doubles which is demonstrated if you track the evolution of HPC. Today one of the fastest supercomputers is the Summit built by IBM with 200 petaFLOPS which is quadrillion times more powerful than the CDC 6600.  According to an Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) statement, if every person on Earth completed one calculation per second, it would take 305 days to calculate the same equation that would take the Summit supercomputer to do in 1 second. This drastic change in computer processing power through the years has allowed for more complex programs to be run on everyday PCs.

Cloud based computing has broken the barriers for companies, large, small and start-ups to access a high computing environment for problem solving to fulfill their business needs. It has become vital for companies to have access to high compute environments and for these systems to be able to handle anything that is thrown at them. From data storage and analytics to simulation and machine learning these are just some of the tool’s companies use in their daily operations. With companies like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure that provide access to HPC through a simple Application Programming Interface (API). Companies no longer have to worry about upfront costs in setting up their own complex HPC infrastructure or renting time from another company. Alternately large companies and corporations benefit from cloud based HPC by not having to share resources across the company, and only getting charged for what they use. Without these services larger companies would spend millions on required teams and software dedicated to maintaining and securing servers.  

While having access to HPC is very important it’s even more important on how the data is maintained and secured. Companies that offer cloud based HPC as a service allow their partner companies to focus on services and products that they offer to their customers. Security and privacy are always the prime directive of running HPC in the cloud followed by performance. Safeguards are put into place to separate users into roles and groups keeping data secure. Many of these cloud based solutions stay in compliance with relevant industry regulations such as HIPAA, FISMA, FedRAMP, PCI. If companies chose to take advantage of the other technologies offered by the cloud based solutions like visualization then their data becomes secure from start to end not to mention the quick access to visualize the large data.   

High Performance Computers have a long history among us originating out of need and of the most expensive equipment of their time. The evolution of these machines has eliminated barriers to innovation and technology that is readily accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Companies and individuals alike can find themselves with unlimited opportunities at their fingertips with the API connections to cloud based computing. It is undeniable that HPC will continue to be at the forefront of our advancements in technology and infrastructure.