Supercomputers – what are they?
Number crunchingSo why do we need supercomputers? Who uses them and what are they used for? We will see that their main application is in large-scale numerical computations, also called number-crunching. Of course, for simple calculations such as: 123 + 765 = 888 or 1542.38 x 2643.56 = 4077374.07
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Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) online course,
Parallelism: the key to performanceSupercomputers achieve this using parallel computing. Performing computations in parallel means carrying out many calculations simultaneously. It is like having thousands of general-purpose computers all working for you on the same problem at the same time. This is in fact an excellent analogy for how modern supercomputers work – you will learn more about the details of how it is done later in the course. Also keep in mind that although supercomputers provide enormous computational capacities, they are also very expensive to develop, purchase and operate. For example, the typical power consumption of a supercomputer is in the order of several megawatts (Mega = 1 000 000), where a megawatt (MW) is enough to power a small town of around 1000 people. That is why it’s important to use them as efficiently as possible. Can you think of other examples of parallelism in everyday life, where many hands make light work? Share your ideas with your fellow learners!
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