What a supercomputer could do for you

Roger Laing

Wednesday 1 August 2018

Supercomputers are not just for advanced scientific research and discovery, they make a real difference in everyday life. And with Supercomputers-as-a-Service they are also accessible to any business – from enterprise to startup.

They may sound like the stuff of science-fiction but supercomputers do make a difference in everyday life. They have the processing power to make sense of our world and we’re going to need it: by 2020, the volume of global Internet traffic annually would fill more than 500 billion DVDs (two zettabytes)1.

Only through supercomputers, and the high-performance computing (HPC) that they deliver, do we have the capability to perform massive, fast computations needed to gain insight into this ever-rising mountain of data.


Size does matter

These supercomputers connect thousands of processors to work in parallel. Today, the fastest ones in the world solve problems at a speed measured in petaflops – one petaflop equal to one quadrillion (1015) floating point operations per second (flops). The next generation of exascale supercomputers, executing quintillion (1018) operations per second, will be available around 2022.

Lenovo is the world’s largest global provider with 117 of the TOP500 supercomputers (nearly one in four systems)2. This includes the world’s largest Intel-based supercomputer, the 11.1 petaflop MareNostrum4, which is powered by more than 3,400 servers linked by 60 kilometres of network cabling.

On the horizon is quantum computing, which although it’s still largely theoretical, has the potential to provide massive processing power and change the way we use and secure data.


Supercomputers for all

This speed puts supercomputers at the heart of the latest research, providing simulations and models for everything from mapping gene changes to weather forecasts. It is also leading the digitisation of industry and is a key part of the EU’s strategy to adapt Europe for the digital age.

The benefits of HPC are already clear. Thanks to HPC-based simulation, European car manufacturers have developed new vehicle platforms in 24 months instead of 60, saving €40 billion while improving safety and comfort3.

There’s also a high return on investment. The EU calculates that for every €1 invested in HPC there’s a return of €867 in increased revenue and €69 in profit3.

Not surprising then, that 97% of industrial companies using HPC believe it’s essential for their ability to innovate, compete, and survive4.

The same supercomputer-scale capabilities are needed by every enterprise as compute-intensive workloads become the norm.

Now, the European Cloud Initiative is designed to make it easy for everyone – from start-up to SME and large data-driven enterprise – to access Supercomputing-as-a-Service.


Augmented Intelligence – people and AI

But powerful as HPC is, it reaches another level when augmented by artificial intelligence.

Take, for example the amount of data released by high-energy particle collision events at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, which is being done to study how life was created. This requires unfathomable amounts of computational resources. So, scientists at University College London (UCL), working with Lenovo, are using AI to reconstruct complex events much more efficiently.

This work with AI, machine learning and deep learning workloads, requires processing power and a level of technical expertise that’s not readily available to everyone.

To solve this, Lenovo has opened three new AI innovation centres – in Morrisville, North Carolina; Stuttgart, Germany and Beijing, China.

These have the AI experts and HPC infrastructure that customers can access remotely to test and refine applications and workloads.

This joint approach of human expertise aided by machines – that Lenovo calls augmented intelligence – makes it possible for any organisation to increase productivity and deliver incredible results.



1 European Commission: Directorate-General for Research and Innovation https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/high-performance-computing-factsheet

2 Lenovo Press release, June 2018 https://lenovoxperience.com/#!/newsDetail/283yi044hzgcdv7snkrmmx9ohuh11srzifj2znpgkf3wxfvy

3 European Commission, High Performance Computing Factsheet, September 2017 https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/high-performance-computing-factsheet 

4 Study on “High Performance Computing in the EU: Progress on the Implementation of the European HPC Strategy”, IDC, https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/study-high-performance-computing-eu-progress-implementation-european-hpc-strategy-final-report


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