Why HPC Matters: Increasing SMB Competitiveness

As the barriers to high performance computing fall, new opportunities arise for small and midsize businesses.

why hpc matters smbs 1000x630
Dell EMC

When the talk turns to high performance computing, many people are likely to think of traditional supercomputers running simulation and modeling applications in academic and government research centers.  And that’s certainly one part of the HPC market, with high performance computing clusters everywhere in the world of scientific research.  But that’s only the beginning of the story, because the use of HPC systems has expanded beyond the doors of traditional research and engineering.

In reality, HPC is now widely used in commercial, industrial and consumer applications, as I’ve noted in an earlier blog post on democratizing HPC. It’s at the heart of use cases as diverse as product design, financial analytics, personalized medicine, marketing automation, fraud detection, digital content creation and autonomous vehicles. Even though the backend systems may be mainly invisible to users, HPC touches our lives in countless ways throughout the day. [1]

We’re not talking about only large enterprises, though. Today, growing numbers of small and midsize enterprises are putting HPC systems to work to sharpen their competitive edge. With the advent of affordable, easy-to-access HPC solutions and cloud-based services, SMBs can now get into a game played by large enterprises and research-driven organizations.

Many organizations are working to facilitate this democratization of HPC. That’s the way it is at the University of Cambridge, which is working with Dell EMC and Intel to give SMBs in the United Kingdom cloud-based access to HPC clusters, along with advice from HPC experts and access to a wide range of educational resources. It’s all delivered via the Dell/Cambridge HPC Solution Centre, which has a mandate to make HPC available to organizations working within the U.K. knowledge economy, in industries ranging from new media to engineering.

High ROI Being Realized on HPC

One of the drivers for moving HPC into small and midsize businesses is the rise of new HPC solutions that are easy to order, easy to deploy and easy to manage. That’s the case with the Dell EMC Ready Solutions for HPC. These solutions help companies of all sizes meet their HPC needs with domain-specific designs built on tested and validated industry-standard building blocks. Solutions like these open the door to HPC opportunities for companies that don’t have the expertise, time and funding to build an HPC cluster from scratch.

Even better, companies can deploy HPC solutions with the confidence that they will see significant returns on their investments. Consider these ROI results from an IDC research update, which noted that investments in HPC can be associated with “very substantial returns”:

  • $673 dollars on average in revenue per dollar of HPC invested
  • $44 dollars on average of profits (or cost savings) per dollar of HPC invested [2]

The advent of more scalable, industry-standard and lower-cost solutions is bringing HPC within the scope of new users across a range of industries and smaller organizations, writer William Payne notes in an article in Scientific Computing World. “Instead of being restricted to a handful of universities and government-funded research centers, modular HPC is increasingly feasible for commercial organizations. This is true for small to medium commercial entities, as well as a more diverse range of public organizations such as hospitals, colleges and research institutes.” [3]

What we’re seeing is a natural expansion of the HPC market. As the technology matures, as it becomes more economical and approachable, a broader range of companies can put HPC to work to accelerate innovation and increase their competitiveness.

A few examples:

  • Small manufacturers and component designers can now use HPC to power applications that allow them to test and validate product designs in their R&D shops — without building costly physical prototypes.
  • Engineering firms can use HPC systems to slash the time required to run complex simulations, compared to running the same jobs on workstations.
  • Visual effects studios can use HPC clusters to accelerate the rendering of complex animations in movies and games.

This list of examples could go on and on, because the uses for HPC are now virtually unlimited — from large enterprises to small and midsize businesses.

Here’s the bottom line: HPC is no longer a niche technology focused on traditional supercomputing applications. HPC is now within the reach of mainstream businesses, and it has proven ROI. To stay competitive, companies need to seize the day.

To learn more about some of the ground-breaking work being carried out by the Dell/Cambridge HPC Solution Centre, check out the video University of Cambridge doubles HPC compute power with PowerEdge servers.


Making a difference with HPC

High performance computing touches virtually every aspect of our lives. HPC is making weather forecasts more accurate, cancer therapies more precise, fraud protection more foolproof and products more efficient. In this series of articles, we explore these and other use cases that capitalize on HPC and its convergence with data analytics to illustrate why HPC matters to all of us.


[1] Ed Turkel, CIO, “Democratizing high performance computing,” March 21, 2017.
[2] IDC, “IDC HPC ROI Research Update: Economic Models For Measuring The Financial ROI And Innovation From HPC Investments,” June 2016.
[3] William Payne, Scientific Computing World, “Modular HPC goes mainstream,” October 1, 2016.