What is Supercomputing?
VLSCI Peak Computing Facility at Stage 1, 2010. Image courtesy of IBM Australia.

What is Supercomputing?

High performance or super-computing offers much greater capacity for solving larger, single problems, and most of these are ones that could not be solved using current, more conventional, computer systems (even allowing for a longer elapsed time) ie. These problems require a reliable and stable machine so that a very large number of components can work flawlessly together during one 'run' to obtain a final answer.  And whilst size is important, the machine is also required to have a memory capacity (of both random access memory and disk space) to carry the load of the assigned task.

Thus, a supercomputer is one which can deliver more computing capacity than most other systems can currently achieve.

Supercomputers are typically measured in 'flops' or (double precision) floating point operations per second . The supercomputing Top500 is regularly quoted in supercomputing circles. These tables are also now compared with the Top Green 500, which ranks the top 500 supercomputers in the world by energy efficiency.  However, speed and power usage are only two considerations when choosing such machines;  there are also key factors such as reliability, cost of construction, volume and weight, and usability to consider.

To learn more about how high performance computing is already contributing to rapid developments in the Life Sciences, read some of our stories under Current Research.