An introduction into supercomputers
Throughout the last several decades, engineers have worked to harness the power of technology to both simplify and revolutionize the computational process. Throughout this discovery came the technology of supercomputers. A supercomputer is a highly operational computer, that performs large amounts of computations and it able to handle very large database systems. Supercomputers can not only handle large amounts of data processing power, but are also a million times faster than desktops and PCs. Supercomputers date back to the early 1920s, in the United States with IBM tabulators at Columbia University which used innovative design and parallelism to achieve computational peak performance. By the end of the 20th century, a massively parallel supercomputers with thousands of processors similar to personal computers, were created and thus broke though the teraflop computer barrier.
While a supercomputer is fast and and very large, it works in an entirely different way than a normal computer or PC. A supercomputer utilizes what is called parallel processing instead of serial processing. Instead of being able to compute one task at a time, it does many things at once which is what makes it so powerful. The main difference between serial and parallel, is the fact that serial processing allows for computers to do one task at a time while parallel processing allows for computers to complete many tasks simultaneously. A modern supercomputer works quickly by utilizing parallel processing, it splits problems into pieces and works with the many pieces at once. Since the 1990s, supercomputers have routinely used thousands of processors known as massive parallel processing. With this advance technology, humans are able to make progress on complex problems to make the world a better place.
Supercomputers, while important to the progressivness of technology, are not the cheapest for companies to invest in. The average cost of a supercomputer facility such as the one IBM has built costs around $300 million dollars. The facility houses computers, hard-drives, and massive air conditioning equipment to keep the facility coo. Supercomputer facilities also utilize a lot of energy in the fact that the facility must remain cool and the machines must be constantly running. Today, however , supercomputers have contributed to some of the greatest and most important scientific discoveries. Blue Waters, utilizes a facility to study the HIV virus, specifically the interaction between 64 million atoms that form the HIV genetic material. Drugs that can be designed to interfer with coorperation, to study a virus that can be neutralized. The study requires mathmatical operations that can only be preformed by a machine with Blue Water's facility specs. Supercomputers are the only device even capable of preforming research while they are being used. Today some of this research can change and save millions of lives or advance human progess.