High Performance Computing software

SW Q&A_August_2013Software? Hardware and networking seem to get all the headline attention when it comes to high performance computing. Systems get described based on the number of cabinets in a system, compute blades in a cabinet, processors on a blade, cores in a processor, clock frequency, nanometer silicon fabrication technology, and more. The supercomputing industry is infatuated with hardware spec speeds and feeds. While hardware features are what often generates the most buzz, software is equally important.

Whether your domain is earth sciences, military/defense, energy, life sciences, manufacturing or other, today’s supercomputing requirements are increasingly more demanding. Differentiated software is helping close those technology gaps in supercomputing that can’t be met by hardware enhancements alone.

Jay Gould, Sr. Product Marketing Manager of HPC solutions at Cray, has considerable experience working in software domains across numerous high tech segments and industries. He recently related how HPC-optimized software has become an imperative to producing efficient, reliable, high performance supercomputers.

How critical is software to a supercomputer?

You can have the largest supercomputer in the world, but you need powerful well-designed system software in order to make it work. While “software” is a general term that can mean so many different things, in the supercomputing arena, it’s vitally important that we be aligned with users on software utilities like compilers, debuggers, visualization and performance analysis tools.

Users can write their own scientific/engineering codes, programs or algorithms in a number of different software languages. Independent third party vendors offer domain-specific applications to be used for unique technology challenges. These HPC systems and subsystems need to run intelligent operating systems and software libraries. Supercomputing environments need job management and resource loading tools. All of these different “software” areas are critical and need to be fully addressed in high performance computing for users to be successful.

What does “HPC-optimized software” mean?

You can’t just clock processors faster or add more cores and expect a supercomputer to go faster. What if the code is not performance optimized? What if the system SW is not built to recover from component or network failures? What if your off-the-shelf OS does not scale? Software in general, the programming environment, the operating system, the support tools and the actual code running the application are as critical to the success of a system just as the hardware and networking that they run on.

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