HPC Getting Started: Why Use a Supercomputer?

Why use a supercomputer?

You can buy a high-end workstation or server off the shelf with the same processing chips that our HPC cluster uses, so why would you need to use a supercomputer? Clearly, if you can get your research done on a workstation, then by all means do so! However, there are many cases where this is impractical. A workstation usually has two to eight processor cores, but contemporary supercomputers have hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of cores.

  • If a problem is too large for your workstation, but it can be solved by many processes working in parallel, then using an HPC cluster may be your answer. Enough processors working together can often solve a problem in hours or days that would take months or years on a workstation.
  • When you have a problem that can be solved in a reasonable amount of time on your workstation, but you need to run many combinations of input parameters, then the multiple nodes and queuing software on a supercomputer can make thousands of runs quickly and automatically.
  • Some problems need very large and very fast disk storage. While you can buy large inexpensive disks off the shelf, these are not particularly fast, and they may not be reliable enough under long running and intense I/O. The very fast interconnect and high speed storage system on a supercomputer results in extremely fast I/O.
  • Other problems need large amounts of fast memory. If your problem exceeds the amount of memory you can afford, then you might use one of our high memory nodes or use many basic nodes to spread out the memory use.
  • If you need to use a commercial software package, and UK has already licensed it, then you can avoid buying the license yourself. Sharing expensive software with other researchers helps to keep everybody's costs down.
  • Our trained and experienced system administrators handle the hardware and software maintenance, security, and tuning. They keeps the cluster running smoothly, constantly available, and secure. The UK supercomputer is available 24x7x365, with very few outages.

If you need help determining whether or not the UK HPC facility can be of value to you, then contact the Center for Computational Sciences at 859-257-8737 or sysadmin@ccs.uky.edu. Ask to speak to a consultant.

859-218-HELP (859-218-4357) 218help@uky.edu