Friday, 29 September 2017

Finding a Competitive Advantage with High Performance Computing

High Performance Computing (HPC), or supercomputing, is a critical enabling capability for many industries, including energy, aerospace, automotive, manufacturing, and more. However, one of the most important aspects of HPC is that HPC is not only an enabler, it is often also a differentiator – a fundamental means of gaining a competitive advantage.

Differentiating with HPC

Differentiating (gaining a competitive advantage) through HPC can include:
  • faster - complete calculations in a shorter time;
  • more - complete more computations in a given amount of time;
  • better - undertake more complex computations;
  • cheaper - deliver computations at a lower cost;
  • confidence - increase the confidence in the results of the computations; and 
  • impact - effectively exploiting the results of the computations in the business.
These are all powerful business benefits, enabling quicker and better decision making, reducing the cost of business operations, better understanding risk, supporting safety, etc.

Strategic delivery choices are the broad decisions about how to do/use HPC within an organization. This might include:
  • choosing between cloud computing and traditional in-house HPC systems (or points on a spectrum between these two extremes);
  • selecting between a cost-driven hardware philosophy and a capability-driven hardware philosophy;
  • deciding on a balance of internal capability and externally acquired capability;
  • choices on the balance of investment across hardware, software, people and processes.
The answers to these strategic choices will depend on the environment (market landscape, other players, etc.), how and where you want to navigate that environment, and why. This is an area where our consulting customers benefit from our expertise and experience. If I were to extract a core piece of advice from those many consulting projects, it would be: "explicitly make a decision rather than drift into one, and document the reasons, risk accepted, and stakeholder buy-in".

Which HPC technology?

A key means of differentiating with HPC, and one of the most visible, is through the choice of hardware technologies used and at what scale. The HPC market is currently enjoying (or is it suffering?) a broader range of credible hardware technology options than the previous few years.