Federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health, US Geological Survey, and the Department of Energy have long relied on high performance computing (HPC) to solve some of their most pressing mission-critical challenges. From genomic sequencing to simulating the impact of environmental conditions on electronics installed on military hardware, there are myriad use cases where being able to access significant compute power creates a strategic advantage.
In a recent study, 92 percent of AI World government attendees agreed that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to transform how the government solves problems, with the top areas of opportunity being accelerating data driven decision making (64 percent) and improving forecasting and recognition (61 percent). To that end, agencies are investing more in predictive analytics (63 percent), machine learning (59 percent) and language processing (40 percent).
While agencies have had access to HPC for decades and while these solutions have become more sophisticated and ever-faster, there are still obstacles to overcome in 2021. “AI has become fundamental to mission success, the ability to connect data sources, make data accessible, analyze the data, and apply the insight is something that federal agencies must be prepared for,” shared Inese Lanka, HPC and Integrated Solutions Sales Consultant at ViON. “But with the costs of designing and running HPC constantly rising, CIOs are struggling to get HPC projects off the ground. However, the next generation of HPC reduces the costs of power consumption with and enables more efficient use of current data center footprints.”
What the market is seeing now is a shift moving toward ARM based processors. ARM offers three advantages for HPC system designers: a CPU Instruction Set Architecture (ISA) that can be optimized for specific workloads resulting in substantial performance advantages, a much lower energy consumption profile, and a much smaller footprint consumption design. In short, ARM delivers improved performance over traditional x86 processors, with greater efficiency. In fact, the world’s fastest, greenest, and most scalable supercomputer, Fugaku, is powered by ARM-based A64FX processors. The good news for organizations that currently have an x86 HPC environment is that ARM can be deployed to compliment the existing platform and not replace it, creating a Hybrid HPC environment.
As federal agencies begin the work of solving serious and complex issues like climate change, food insecurity, medical vaccines, and many more complex problems, access to the most advanced HPC architectures is essential. The ability to access state-of-the-art HPC solutions mitigates many major obstacles agencies have faced in expanding and modernizing their capabilities. ARM based HPC can attack the challenges presented by massive data sets and equally large power bills removing obstacles to mission success. It will be interesting to see what new challenges federal agencies can begin to solve, and also how much more quickly it can be done.