HPC 101

Beyond finding just the right fit for a high performance computing solution in your business, there are a lot of concepts and basic information you’ll want to know as you work with your IT specialists — whether they are in your own business or you are working with a vendor or integration specialist. On these pages you’ll learn about common HPC solutions and the hardware and software involved.

Introduction to HPC: what’s a cluster?

A high performance computer appropriate for most small and medium-sized businesses today is built from what are basically many ordinary computers connected together with a network and centrally coordinated by some special software. Because the computers are usually physically very close together, the common term for a high performance computer today is a cluster, and when you call up your friendly IT geek you’ll be talking with them about helping you install a small cluster for your business.

HPC architecture for beginners

So, what’s in a cluster, anyway? Because clusters are just collections of computers that are connected together with a computer network and special software to help them all work together, you’re probably already familiar with the components used to build a cluster. We’ll introduce you to the big picture.

Computing: the processors, disks, and more

Just as with the desktop and laptop computers you are already familiar with, your HPC cluster will use the basic computer components to its heavy lifting: processors, disks, and memory. The tremendous changes that have shaped the HPC landscape over the past two decades mean that you’ll be building your cluster out of parts that are probably very familiar to you.

How your HPC cluster works together: communications networks

You can put 25 people in a room and call them a team, but unless they talk to one another, share plans and documents, and coordinate their work they won’t be much of a team at all. The key to teamwork with people is communication, and communication is the key to getting value out of your cluster, too. We’ll review what you should know about one of the most important components in your cluster.

The glue: cluster software

Processors, memory, disk, and networks. These are the pieces of an HPC solution. But without software to make your cluster work, it won’t do anything at all. Here are the basics of cluster software, from operating systems to programming libraries.