Some companies devote entire floors to nothing but servers to create enough computing power to run their operations. High performance computing (HPC) is a practice that enables organizations to solve large computational problems at high speeds by bringing together multiple computers that produce more computing power than a regular, standalone computer.
The cloud changes all that. Now, these collective supercomputers are flying up and away into the cloud. This allows companies to free up that expensive real estate by harnessing high performance cloud computing, where the servers can be owned and maintained by a service provider and aren’t dependent on physical proximity.
Liquid Web can show you how high performance computing works, its components, real-world applications, and what it means when mixed with the cloud.
What Is HPC in Cloud Computing?
As stated above, high performance computing (HPC) is a practice that enables organizations to solve large computational problems at high speeds by bringing together multiple computers to produce more computing power than a regular, standalone computer.
In cloud computing, those computers don’t have to be on-site or even in close proximity to each other. Think of it as kind of like crowd-sourcing computing power. You bring together many computers from many locations to get the work done.
The Parts of an HPC Cloud System
There are three main parts of an HPC cloud setup. These components efficiently work together to deliver maximum output. They include the following:
- Computing Power (CPU) — The core component is the CPUs — the computers (servers) themselves. Multiple computers work together to process numerous tasks simultaneously, and each device has several high-performance processor cores. Together, all the devices process data like one large supercomputer known as a cluster.
- Network — A server cluster consists of individual computers (nodes) that must work together. The network connects these servers and enables high-speed communication during processing operations. It also facilitates the distribution of tasks between different computers during operation.
- Storage — All devices in a cluster need to retrieve processing instructions and save the results of their computations, so storage is necessary. Storage is connected to the servers through the network and stores the results of the cluster's computations.
For seamless performance during operations, all components must work at an optimal speed. The downside to this is that, in some cases, when you need to upgrade some parts, you have to upgrade all the others to match the performance.
As a result, upgrading an HPC cluster to enhance performance can be costly. The cost makes it difficult for small and medium-sized businesses to set up and maintain custom on-premises high performance cloud computing systems.
Types of HPC Designs
Generally, we can group HPC designs into two broad categories based on the physical configurations:
- Clustered — In this design, all the devices in a cluster are placed closer together physically. By reducing the physical distance between nodes in a cluster, you can achieve lower latency (more speed) and higher throughput on a network. Consequently, this design often has better performance.
- Distributed — A distributed design leverages the power of several clusters in different physical locations. For instance, an on-premises data center could work with another data center in a different location.
We can further classify HPC designs as either homogeneous or heterogeneous. A design is homogeneous if all the devices in a cluster have identical performance specifications. It is classified as heterogeneous if the devices in a cluster have differing attributes.
Why Is High Performance Computing Important?
Humanity is constantly battling complex problems the more advanced it becomes. And complex problems require equally complex solutions. HPC provides substantial processing power that helps researchers, scientists, corporations, and businesses.
Speed and power are the most dominant attributes of HPC clouds. These factors are crucial for businesses conducting intense research that takes time to complete. HPC can significantly cut down research time, potentially saving businesses huge amounts of money.
A unique and powerful application of HPC cloud processing is in digital twin creation. Digital twin creation is a process through which you can create a virtual, real-time replica of a real object. In eCommerce, customers can use a digital twin service to virtually try on different clothes, improving conversion rates and reducing returns from bracketed size purchases.
Serving many customers at once also fits well with HPC. For instance, some SaaS companies use the power of HPC to provide complex services to many customers at one time.
Benefits of Using High Performance Cloud Computing
The typical user of the HPC is a business with high data processing needs. However, not all businesses have the financial muscle to set up on-premises solutions. High performance cloud computing offers the possibility of using a cloud computing provider to provide off-site computing power.
Server providers set up clusters of HPC servers and provide large-scale cloud services to businesses, regardless of location. Businesses only pay for the computing resources they use instead of the complete HPC cloud infrastructure, and the cloud providers maintain the physical infrastructure.
Benefits include performance and speed, scalability, remote access and flexibility, backup and recovery, high availability, and reduced setup and maintenance costs.
Performance and Speed
High performance cloud computing offers the same performance and speed as an on-site HPC cluster. Like regular HPC, businesses can process large tasks that would otherwise take days or weeks in just a few hours. The only difference is that businesses use the Internet to access the HPC cloud instead of maintaining many computers, the network, and storage on their own premises.
Remote Access and Flexibility
With a laptop or workstation and a reliable Internet connection, anyone can access high performance cloud computing and schedule tasks from anywhere on demand. It doesn't tie you down to one location. This flexibility supports companies that have a highly mobile or remote workforce.
In computing, individual tasks require unique levels of computing resources to execute successfully. Since you don't need all of the resources all of the time, HPC cloud processing allows you to scale the amount of resources needed to process your HPC workloads efficiently.
This scaling can be done manually or using auto-scaling features. For example, if you are a SaaS provider of GPS directions, there might be a drastic uptick in processing needed to handle directions for a special event like the Super Bowl. These resources later shrink when you have no use for them.
This attribute of high performance cloud computing is partially responsible for its affordability.
Reduced Setup and Maintenance Cost
Setting up and maintaining an on-site HPC solution can be costly. It involves setting aside space or leasing another facility and buying, configuring, and maintaining the hardware. Maintenance involves hiring specialized IT staff and paying for security (physical and virtual) plus hefty electric bills.
An HPC cloud platform is cost-effective since service providers already have the HPC infrastructure in place and maintain it to ensure your services are consistently available to your customers.
Backup and Recovery
Massive amounts of data are required or produced by cloud-based HPC applications. Service providers help you back up this data in different ways.
For instance, cloud providers provide secure offsite backups that keep your data in separate physical locations from your HPC cluster. In the event of a natural disaster like a hurricane destroys the cluster containing your software, your data remains safe in a different location.
Other backup strategies cloud providers offer include incremental backups, real-time backups, full-server backups, and backup storage devices. Different providers have unique offerings in each of these solutions.
HPC operations are usually high-value. The availability of all computing services is crucial. Cloud companies build HPC systems with fault tolerance in mind to ensure that application execution runs uninterrupted in the event of a software or hardware failure.
Spreading operations throughout the cloud helps ensure high availability because resources in one location can offset an outage in another location. It also allows for real-time upgrades with minimal or no downtime.
Challenges of Using High Performance Cloud Computing
No system is perfect, and high performance cloud computing comes with its own challenges. Most of these relate to the control you sacrifice by having your server clusters owned and managed by an HPC cloud provider. However, most of these challenges are more than offset by choosing a high-quality provider.
HPC exists to process huge amounts of data at speeds unachievable using regular, standalone servers. The result of these processes is often equally large volumes of data that are difficult to move around.
Sometimes, the fluid nature of your business may require you to switch from one HPC cloud vendor to another. But you might have to stick to one vendor even if the terms of your agreement are no longer favorable if you sign up for a long-term contract.
With high performance cloud computing provided by a vendor, you are limited by the options your provider offers. Not all providers offer the same levels of server control, server performance options, or security controls. This differs from an on-site solution where, although costly, you completely control every part of your system.
Normally, costs for high performance cloud computing are initially low because of flexibility and scalability. However, the more you scale up, the higher your costs go, and those costs can catch some companies off guard.
For example, when you scale up your resources to deal with a traffic spike or other high-demand period, you could use more than your hosting plan includes. In that case, you might be charged additional fees for the extra computing resources during that spike.
Likewise, if you need more data storage, your bill may increase if you go over your initial plan limits. Planning ahead for these costs and understanding the limits of your cloud hosting plan is vital for managing these costs.
Data Security and Privacy
A 2022 survey of cybersecurity experts found that over 39% of businesses in the U.K. experienced a form of security breach that year. That number was even higher in the preceding years.
Data security is vital for companies, and high performance cloud computing does offer security options. However, public clouds and private clouds have very different options.
A public cloud allows users to access it from anywhere with a reliable Internet connection. In contrast, a private cloud uses restricted access protocols. It grants special access to a predefined group of users from a specific organization. Users outside of the predefined domain can't access it.
In a public cloud, you share cloud resources with other tenants on the cloud platform and are at risk if their security is lax. This is not the case with private clouds that use dedicated servers so that your data is completely separated from your hosting provider’s other clients.
Public cloud servers also have limits on the security controls you can implement, as the resources are shared between tenants. For private cloud servers, you have complete control over your security measures.
What Are the Use Cases for the HPC Cloud?
High performance cloud computing allows for nearly limitless discovery and gives industries like SaaS, entertainment, and gaming the power they need to serve high-quality experiences to customers. There is no limit to where and how HPC can be used.
Simulation is an important factor in research and development. It saves businesses huge amounts of money by virtually visualizing the various outcomes of different real-world scenarios.
For example, a company that wants to lower the weight of an aircraft can simulate the effects of adjusting the materials, weights, and sizes of various components before building anything. Engineers can then use high performance cloud computing to check the effects of various modifications on aircraft fuel consumption, weight, safety, and speed.
Entertainment and Media
HPC plays a big role in movie production. It is used in editing and rendering high-quality videos and animations. The process of rendering high-quality videos requires immense computational power.
HPC provides creators with computing resources like graphics processing units (GPUs). GPUs are CPUs with the ability to handle media content better than traditional CPUs.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
In Artificial Intelligence (AI), complex algorithms are built to learn and make decisions like human beings. They achieve this by repeatedly executing a task in different ways until they figure out how to do it correctly and efficiently.
HPC provides researchers with significant computational power to train AI with large datasets. When fully trained, AI can be deployed in various fields like customer service, eCommerce, and image processing.
HPC is used to run intricate trading algorithms in the money markets. Experts create trading strategies and then feed them to the algorithms that execute them in the market on the trader's behalf.
Banks also need powerful computing solutions with strong security to stay in compliance and manage sensitive personal financial data.
HPC cloud is crucial in this automation process because the algorithms conduct rapid, real-time analysis of copious amounts of data.
Hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality services have a lot of data to contend with from reservation systems and complex location schedules. Customer financial data security is also a concern.
High performance cloud computing helps ensure reservation systems are reliable with high availability and that complex scheduling algorithms run quickly for accuracy. And that helps provide a smooth experience for customers while maintaining strong security for personal and financial data.
Final Thoughts: What Is High Performance Cloud Computing?
High performance computing gives your business that extra push to reach the top of your industry. That data you've been collecting over the years you've been in business could provide the leverage you need to take the next step.
Through HPC, you can analyze the data and discover opportunities for business expansion. You can identify bottlenecks and areas in which you should invest more resources. HPC can also help your business performance day to day by ensuring high availability and keeping services to customers running smoothly.
The most important thing in all this is that you host your business apps with a reliable cloud hosting partner — a partner that understands your business needs and is ready to provide you with the help you need to make the most out of the technology you have.
Liquid Web provides secure, fully managed cloud dedicated hosting services. We offer you all the perks of a bare metal dedicated server with the elasticity of the cloud in our bare metal cloud server plans.
And you never have to worry about sharing your resources with other users that constantly slow down your services by hogging all the compute and memory resources or endanger your data security.
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