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HPC: predictions for 2014


John Barr looks into his crystal ball to see what is in store for HPC in the course of this year


and the tools, standards and skills required to build them. Tat didn’t change during 2013 and, with many technology roadmaps focused on consolidation during 2014, applications are worth a more detailed look, as are others (including processor technologies and HPC in the cloud) that will also be pertinent for HPC in 2014.


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HPC applications HPC applications are more complex than most enterprise or consumer applications. Whereas the enterprise space is dominated by relatively few, very widely used applications, the HPC landscape is different. HPC is driven by many applications, in each of more than a dozen vertical segments. Parallelism and heterogeneity within HPC systems at chip, system, cluster, and cloud scale mean that – in order to deliver the best performance – applications must be tuned for specific architectures. HPC applications are run on a wide


range of platforms. At the low end, a user may be sitting in front of a multi-processor, multi-core, GPU-accelerated workstation. In the mid-range, applications may be run on a departmental cluster, whereas, at the high end, a supercomputer owned by an enterprise, or a cloud-based HPC facility, may be used. Te range of target architectures, job management tools, and application licencing regimes, means that it


18 SCIENTIFIC COMPUTING WORLD


year ago, this annual look at trending topics and technologies in HPC concluded that the most important issue was applications:


can be difficult to make the best use of this complex environment. For independent soſtware vendors (ISVs), the cloud is both an opportunity and a threat. Te cloud enables ISVs to deliver a broader, more flexible set of offerings to their customers, but it also makes it easier for a user to explore alternative options. One of the issues where progress is


needed in order to enable a more flexible use of a range of HPC platforms, is soſtware licensing. While some companies delivering commercial HPC applications are taking an enlightened approach and providing flexible licensing to meet the evolving landscape of HPC platforms, some well established companies are more concerned with protecting their short-term revenue streams – which makes fully exploiting the potential of HPC more difficult, more costly and less appealing to some users. Significant progress on flexible licensing for HPC applications can be expected from many ISVs during 2014.


HPC tools and standards OpenMP is a high-level approach that allows programmers to parallelise codes for multicore and multiprocessor systems. OpenACC takes this one step further, using pragmas to tell the compiler which code segments should be accelerated. Although OpenACC is blazing the trail for accelerator development tools, the theory is that, once the best approach has been identified, this (or something like it) will be supported in OpenMP. It is important for the HPC


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