What is supercomputing?
If you have ever shopped in Asda, watched a TV weather forecast or enjoyed the latest Dreamworks studio animation at the cinema, then you have unknowingly enjoyed the power of supercomputing technology.
Compared to the devices most of us are used to, supercomputers are beyond anything you can imagine in terms of processing power and capacity, capable of performing complex and high-volume calculations at top speeds. First introduced in the 1960s, today they have evolved into substantial machines running off tens of thousands of processors, and are used for highly calculation-intensive tasks such as weather forecasting.
Asda parent company WalMart uses supercomputers for inventory and distribution modelling, to ensure their millions of items of stock are in the right store at the right time, while the wonder of this technology brought much-loved characters such as Shrek to the big screen.
Despite the fact that some of the biggest brands in the world use supercomputers, businesses of any size can benefit from this technology as it can be adapted to suit a wide range of applications.
Can SMEs really benefit from this technology?
With small businesses facing a huge number of challenges in the current economic climate, high performance computing can power breakthroughs in product, process or service development, strengthening your position in the market and helping you to compete on a global scale.
Businesses in a wide range of sectors can benefit, including advanced materials and manufacturing, creative industries, energy and environment, financial and professional services, information and communication technologies, life sciences and construction.
For many businesses already tapped into the benefits, it’s a technology that is fast becoming indispensable.
So how can supercomputers help?
Supercomputers have many applications that are invaluable to business, including advanced modelling and simulation, performing complex calculations and rendering high-definition 3D graphics.
Advanced modelling and simulation allows companies to innovate and improve existing products and services, giving them a competitive edge through more efficient product design, increased data analysis and improved manufacturing processes.
It means new designs can be evaluated without physical models, and any design refinements required can easily be tested. Tests can be repeated with different parameters until the desired result or outcome is achieved.
The obvious benefit is that this reduces the time, labour and cost involved in bringing products to market, while improving research and development capabilities.
For example, Swansea-based Calon Cardio-Technology Ltd is using the supercomputing service offered by High Performance Computing (HPC) Wales to develop the next generation of implantable micro-pumps for the treatment of heart failure.
The firm is making extensive use of computer modelling and simulation in its research and development, which significantly reduces the product development phase and, consequently, the time to market.
It’s clear to see that supercomputing has a valuable role to play in boosting the competitive capability of SMEs in a wide range of sectors. The investment it is being given by Government is testament to its value to business competitiveness.
How do I find out more about using supercomputing technology for my business?
While purchasing a dedicated supercomputer is clearly out of the reach of most small companies, there are now a number of services in the UK where companies can purchase server time and access dedicated training and support.
Supercomputing services across the UK are expanding the amount of support available in recognition of the fact that many businesses have no experience of using this technology, meaning you don’t need any previous experience of supercomputing to enjoy its benefits.
Supercomputer services: Handy links
High Performance Computing (HPC) Wales – http://www.hpcwales.co.uk/
Supercomputing Scotland – http://www.supercomputingscotland.org/
Sci-Tech Daresbury – http://www.sci-techdaresbury.com/
Irish Centre for High-End Computing – http://www.ichec.ie/