3 min read

Why HPC and AI Need one another

11 February 2020

High-Performance Computing (HPC) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are fundamentally different from each other, but how they work together is vital to the future of computing.

Hosting HPC in a data centre is often the best solution for a company. Learn how to make HPC hosting a success from our guide 'The 4 Essentials of Hosting HPC in a Data Centre'

HPC and AI

HPC is hardware, and AI is software.

So, although the two of them aren’t inherently linked, their progress and development will grow more connected over time. Understanding one will help give you a more comprehensive knowledge of the other.

The two technologies of AI and HPC are also valuable in their own right and might be something your company could make use of separate of one another.

What is High-Performance Computing?

HPC refers to any computer system that has increased capabilities far beyond what ordinary desktop computers can manage. High-Performance Computers contain all of the usual components of a computer – CPU, RAM, Storage, Cooling, etc. – but with the following crucial differences:

  • The number of components in the computer (i.e. their density) is significantly increased
  • A HPC computer is organised into computing clusters that are then connected together
  • The connections are optimised to make sure the clusters operate quickly and in sync
  • To cope with the density of components, the power supply and cooling has to be considerably increased

So, in other words, when people mention HPC, they are simply describing the hardware of a computer system that is able to handle intensive data processing activities.

Some industries that benefit most for HPC include:

  • The Financial Sector – Being able to make accurate predictions based on available data is big business. An increasing number of hedge funds are moving towards data analysis to dictate what they should buy and sell. With how quickly the stock market changes, this wouldn’t be possible without the ability to quickly process huge amounts of data.
  • Engineering Firms – Running computer simulations to test designs without having to build anything is a vital tool of any engineering company, whether they’re designing self-driving cars or bridges. HPC greatly decreases the amount of time simulations need, allowing engineers to get designs finished and into production sooner.
  • Other sectors making use of high-intensity computing include:
    • Scientific Research
    • Manufacturing
    • Data Mining
    • Weather and Atmospheric Research
    • Oil and Gas Exploration

What is AI?

AI refers to computer programmes that are capable of learning and making decisions. The potential ways AI could be deployed are limitless (for example: compare the theorised roles of AI in the films Her and Terminator). Still, it’s clear that AI-based programmes are capable of a lot more compared to traditional software.

This advance in computer capabilities – with AI being able to identify patterns, learn, and draw conclusions – has already led to breakthroughs in a lot of industries.

Some examples are:

  • It would be impossible for American Express to monitor their 110 million AmEx cards without the deployment of machine learning algorithms. But thanks to AI, they are able to identify and block fraud in real time, saving themselves and their customers millions of dollars.
  • At the start of 2020, researchers from Imperial College London and Google revealed they had built an AI capable of outperforming human doctors in diagnosing breast cancer.

Not only does this showcase how advanced these technologies are, but it is an excellent example of how proper deployment of AI and HPC is going to literally save people’s lives.

How do HPC and AI work together?

Since AI is capable of processing so much information, it needs to run on sophisticated hardware which is capable of performing trillions of calculations per second, or more. This is where HPC and AI intersect since HPC uses their dense computer clusters – mentioned earlier in this article – in sync with one another to perform the necessary calculations at blistering speeds and run the most advanced AI.

If someone is discussing AI, there’s a very high chance that HPC is involved in the AI’s operation. Additionally, while HPC is capable of running a wide range of high-intensity programmes, AI represents a huge part of HPC’s future, and some of the most important programmes run on HPC (like breast cancer screening) will be AI.

Further Reading: The rise of High-Performance Computing in Data Centres

How important is HPC to modern businesses?

As well as hosting AI, HPC is responsible for hosting lots of other analytical computer programmes which would be unachievable without high-intensity computing. To see an example of how this technology is changing the world, take a look at what the winners of the 2019 HPCwire awards have achieved. 

While HPC isn’t a commonly used technology, it is going to be responsible for the significant advances in a lot of industries. All of the sectors listed above are particularly relevant, but eventually HPC will be involved in every type of business, in the same way that computers are currently involved in almost every single act of our day-to-day lives. So, regardless of what sector or industry you work in, keep an eye on HPC advancements as HPC will probably be the next thing to cause an impact on your business, even if you aren’t using it at all yourself.

4D's HPC Capabilities

Across the UK, our data centres have been uniquely built for high density deployments, and our infrastructure reflects this.   All our racks are equipped with power supplies capable of hosting anything up to ultra-high density (around 40kW) without any additional power installation requirement.  The latest rear-door cooling technology comfortably copes with the cooling requirements of a HPC rack and can be installed upon request onto any of our existing racks.

4D’s high and ultra-high density capabilities provide a leading-edge HPC standard that can seamlessly integrate across other systems and services.

If you’re considering hosting HPC within a data centre, please get in touch with 4D or call us on 020 3962 0399 to explore our HPC solutions and how we can best help your company.

New call-to-action