Showing posts with label public. Show all posts
Showing posts with label public. Show all posts

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Cloud computing or HPC? Finding trends.

Enable innovation and efficiency in product design and manufacture by using more powerful simulations. Apply more complex models to better understand and predict the behaviour of the world around us. Process datasets faster and with more advance analyses to extract more reliable and previously hidden insights and opportunities.

All ambitions that will probably resonate with those seeking scientific advances, commercial innovation, industrial growth and more cost-effective research. Underpinning all of the above is the use of more powerful computing methods and technologies. Faster and more capable computers - but equally important - more advanced and better performing algorithms and software implementations.

It's a pretty convincing story for those who take the time to listen - whether business leaders, governments, or research funders. Even in these challenging economic times, it has led to investments from industry and governments for this reason - the potential return is well documented and significant. It is even enticing enough to interest the media and the public - especially when we use emotive descriptions like "world's fastest supercomputer", "international competitiveness in digital economy", "personal supercomputing", and so on.

And it is this last thought that cause me to diverge from the grand theme to explore names and attention. I will come back to the main theme later (a future blog), as it is both important and timely. But on to my side topic.

Friday, 19 August 2011

What is this HPC thing?

I’m sure something like this is familiar to many readers of this blog. The focus here is HPC, but there is a similar story for mathematicians, numerical software engineeers, etc.

You've just met an old acquaintance. Or a family member is curious. Or at social events (when social means talking to real people not twitter/facebook). We see that question coming. We panic. Then the family/friend/stranger, asks it. We freeze. How to reply? Can I get a meaningful, ideally interesting, answer out before they get bored? What if I fail to get the message across correctly? Oops, this pause before answering has gone on too long. Now they are looking at me strangely. They are thinking the answer is embarrassing or weird. This is not a good start.

The question? “What do you do then?” Followed by: “Oh! So what exactly is supercomputing then?

The problem is that it usually takes a several slides or a few minutes of explanation to give a decent overview to a scientist who is new to HPC. Your questioner is almost certainly not a scientist, and maybe even thinks using email, facebook or twitter is a big computing achievement.

So, where do you start? The big computer? The science it enables? The money involved? You want to quickly convey the scale, the enormous range of user disciplines, the specialist nature, the benefits to everyday life. You want to distinguish it from laptops, tablet computers, and corporate servers. You want to avoid mentioning nuclear weapons labs. You’d even like to come across as cool, but it’s way too late for that.