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Is Parallel Computing HPC?

Often times I use parallel computing and High Performance Computing rather loosely, interchanging the two and substituting one for the other. But for the purpose of clearly understanding both of these, it can be stated that if HPC were the end goal then parallel computing is the means. Parallel computing is independent of HPC meaning that the end goal of parallel computing need not be HPC. Parallel computing using supercomputers is typically what is called HPC. But with massively parallel hardware such as the GPUs available commonly, this definition seems to have been diluted a little and colloquially speaking parallel computing and HPC are not distinguished.


HPC is a growing and niche technology area and it is interesting to note that the U.S. government considers this an important technology that will help U.S. businesses, primarily manufacturing, to compete effectively by accelerating innovation. It is interesting to note that Ron Bloom, special assistant for manufacturing to the U.S. President, Mr. Obama, participated in a meeting, organized by the Council on Competitiveness Technology Leadership and Strategy Initiative advisory committee on HPC, to discuss how HPC can help U.S. manufactures to innovate and compete more effectively in the global market. It is with the same enthusiasm that other nations are looking to use HPC for innovation.
HPC needs are definitely growing and here are some of the key drivers for HPC:
• Reduce computation time - There are applications that are so complex that it takes a day to a week to get answers. With changing business dynamics, these applications, which enable key business decisions, would need to be tuned to produce their results in much lesser time for faster decision making. Despite the optimizations it wouldn't be possible to get higher application performance simply because these applications are sequential.
• Real time computations - It is becoming crucial for several core business applications to deliver real time or near real time results. This is simply not possible given the sequential nature of these applications.
• High throughput - Sometimes the need is to be able to get applications do much more within the same time window. Again, unless the application is adapted to parallel hardware it will simply not be possible to deliver high throughput.


HPC is slowly moving mainstream and is seeing adoption in the analytics and business intelligence space and planning and forecasting. As businesses target real time and near real time applications, HPC will become imperative.

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