HPC brings business transformation

High performance computing has long been essential for scientific and engineering research, but HPC is also making an impact in other sectors and Saudi Arabia leads the region in HPC investment

Tags: IDC Middle East and AfricaSaudi ArabiaSupercomputer
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HPC brings business transformation Governments in the region see the benefits of supercomputing power in a range of different areas, says Al Helayyil.
By  Abdulaziz Al Helayyil Published  May 11, 2014

Since its introduction in the 1960s, high performance computing (also called supercomputing) has made enormous contribution to the world’s scientific, engineering and industrial competitiveness. Supercomputers long ago expanded out beyond government and university research facilities. Supercomputers have already made cars and planes much safer, more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly. They are crucial aids in discovering and extracting new sources of oil and gas, and for developing alternative energy sources.

They are heavily relied on not only by automotive and aerospace manufacturers, but also by industries ranging from financial services to medicine and health care, entertainment, consumer products, the weather community to predict severe storms, and more recently Internet companies. Without supercomputers, detecting today’s sophisticated cyber security breaches, insider threats and electronic fraud would be impractical. An IDC study showed that 97% of companies that had adopted supercomputing say that they could no longer compete or survive without it.

What’s the significance of HPC to governments and enterprise?

Globally, it’s no surprise that the US leads global HPC spending, followed by China, Japan and with Germany and France rounding up the top five. In the Middle East region, many countries have significantly increased their investment, most notably the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It’s true that there is quite a ways to go to reach the levels of global investment seen by other countries, but regional leaders are beginning to see the importance of HPC when it comes to benefiting economies, ensuring the country’s security as well as medical research and educational development. Some of the newer market drivers for HPC include higher scrutiny through more input data (i.e. fraud detection, counter-terrorism), smarter mathematical models and algorithms assisting in R&D, real time and near-real time requirements, used heavily in catching credit card fraud, on-the-fly patient diagnosis, counter-terrorism and insurance purposes.

A 2012 research by IDC found that government labs led MEA HPC Industry/Application Segment investment by almost double the next closest segment, with $53.3 million followed by Academia with $28.9million and Bio-Sciences with $26.3million, a clear indication of regional governments’ intent to invest heavily in HPC.

The head of the Pentagon’s Cyber Command, General Keith Alexander, estimates that cyber-attacks and intellectual property theft cost US companies $250 billion annually. Separately, the threat of insider espionage can be a high-risk disaster for governments, specifically the military, where high-value targets can be compromised and classified information leaked.

Finally, fraud has been one of the leading causes of data exploitation for personal use. The FBI estimates that 10% of transactions in federal health care programs are fraudulent, costing more than $100 billion a year. Today, fraud is detected after the fact, and the government recovers only about $5 billion a year. The government is conducting tests to evaluate multiple proposed solutions to this Big Data problem.

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