Author: Matt Burns, Samtec
The global pandemic has helped me realize something: our daily lives have never been so influenced by technology and computing. Shelter-in-place has turned regular visits with family and friends into tech support sessions: “Push this button. Turn on your audio. Aim the camera on your face. Quit shouting!” You get the idea.
Similarly, high-performance computing (HPC) has never been so accessible to so many. HPC typically refers to the aggregation of computing power to solve large-scale scientific or technical challenges. While the legacy of HPC was available only to academia and the government, the modern computing revolution provides HPC on a desktop for companies and individuals alike.
HPC – A Brief History
English mathematician Alan Turing proposed the “A-machine” or automatic machine in 1936. The basic idea was the development of a machine that could solve any algorithm. His theories were put to the test during WWII. His work in Bletchley Park broke ENIGMA and helped the Allies win the war.
On the other side of the Atlantic, similar efforts were underway. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania developed ENIAC, often considered the grandfather of digital computers. What ENIAC lacked in elegance, it made up in brute force: 18,000 vacuum tubes, 200 KW of power, 30 tons of equipment jammed into a 20’ x 40’ area … yikes! Imagine trying to program that thing.
But what about today? HPC hardware solutions are available from many Gen-Z Consortium member companies. Department clusters, supercomputers or cloud-connectivity now offer scalable options for individuals, small teams, and larger companies in addition to academia and government entities.
Democratization of HPC
The modern computing revolution based on Moore’s law has made HPC more accessible. Processing power has increased exponentially while processing cost has fallen just as fast. ENIAC may have used 200 KW, but individual HPC workstations may require ~200W or less.
Additionally, HPC is not just available in the realm of academia and governments any longer. Companies of all sizes must innovate to stay competitive and HPC allows for virtual product design, testing, and validation before the first prototype is ever developed. This shortens design cycles and saves companies money.
Benefits of HPC Democratization
Samtec designs and manufactures high-performance electromechanical and optical interconnect solutions. In years past, we had a small, internal HPC cluster hosting the 3D solver software for designing and simulating our products. As our team of designers and development locations have grown globally, we are now leveraging cloud-based HPC resources our 3D solver vendor offers, simplifying the product development process exponentially. None of this would be available without the democratization of HPC.
Typically we model, analyze and simulate our connectors iteratively with 3D electromagnetic solvers to optimize and refine the design. A good example is our SFF-TA-1002-compliant HSCE6-DV connector series.
Gen-Z in HPC Democratization
Gen-Z is a memory semantic fabric that speaks the language of native computing and provides a pathway to Storage Class Memory (SCM) and data-centric or memory-centric computing. As Gen-Z technologies are adopted within next-gen data center architectures, modular systems will become the norm.
Flexibility and control are balanced with performance and cost at rack and row scale solutions. All of this contributes to the democratization of HPC with wider availability for many different users. Gen-Z webinars and educational materials offer greater detail on advantages of this new and exciting fabric.
Will HPC be available for anyone? Gen-Z will help make it happen.