The days of supercomputers being a niche product are in the past. Companies are building hardware that is streamlining the concept of super computing and Microsoft is leading the way with its Azure platform. By leveraging its servers and using cloud to handle the high performance computing (HPC) workloads, the company is increasingly bringing supercomputers to the cloud.
In a report, ZDNet points out how Microsoft is using Azure to become a leader in mainstreaming supercomputer technology. In fact, the newest Top500 list released in June shows Microsoft Azure with four supercomputers within the top 30. Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure's biggest competitor, has just a single entry in the top 500 (41st).
You may be wondering why the race is on to make supercomputers are part of everyday computational output. Well, as datasets become increasingly large and complex, only a supercomputer can efficiently sort the information. For example, simulations of millions of data points run through multiple times to see different scenarios would take years to organize using even the best cloud virtual machines.
Instead, the data needs to be distributed so systems work on specific areas. The only machines with the computational power necessary are supercomputers. While the hardware for supercomputers has traditionally been off the cloud, there is an increasing push towards these computers living in cloud data centers.
For Microsoft, that means Azure HPC (high performing computer), a service that allows complex computational loads. Microsoft describes the platform as a new way to have all computational needs in one product:
“Azure high-performance computing (HPC) is a complete set of computing, networking and storage resources integrated with workload orchestration services for HPC applications. With purpose-built HPC infrastructure, solutions and optimized application services, Azure offers competitive price/performance compared to on-premises options with additional high-performance computing benefits. In addition, Azure includes next-generation machine learning tools to drive smarter simulations and empower intelligent decision making.”
Microsoft's push to make supercomputers usable in everyday scenarios for major organizations is already visible. Back in April, the company combined its Azure HPC offering with the UK Met Office to develop a weather-predicting supercomputer. In fact, one of the top 25 most powerful supercomputers in the world.
The Met Office will base the supercomputer in the south of the UK, and it will be operational from summer 2022. Microsoft says the machine will have a 10-year lifespan. While the UK is not home to the most devastating of weather, climate change is causing concerns about increasingly powerful storms, snow, and floods.
Microsoft's supercomputer technology on Azure will provide deeper prediction by analyzing bigger sets of data more efficiently. By leveraging AI and simulations, the solution will provide richer weather models for more accurate forecasting.
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