What is High Performance Computing?

High Performance Computing (HPC) typically refers to the practice of aggregating many computers together in such a way as to provide a single facility with more computational power than one could typically get out of a laptop, desktop computer or workstation. This aggregation of computers is often referred to as a high-performance computer (often abbreviated to HPC), a supercomputer or a compute cluster (i.e a cluster of computers). 

Traditionally, HPC was used to solve large, complex problems that could not “fit” inside a single computer. However, other the last decade, the need to solve much smaller problems but many of them, or the need to analyse many individual items of data, has become a large and important part of the work which is run on high-performance computers. This type of work is often referred to as high-throughput computing or HTC. 

What High Performance Computing service does Imperial provide? 

The Research Computing Service (RCS) provides access to HPC resources and support to any researcher at Imperial College. At the core of the HPC service is a large High-Performance Computing (HPC) facility for non-interactive, high-throughput and highly parallel compute- and data-intensive tasks. The HPC facility additional contains compute nodes with GPUs for GPU accelerated workloads including AI/Machine Learning. 

The HPC service is managed and supported by the Research Computing Platforms Team, within the Research Computing Service. The specifications of the HPC facilities we provide access to may be found in our documentation.

What should I know before I apply for access? 

The HPC facility is managed by a batch system which is responsible for matching your compute tasks, known as jobs, to available nodes. As a user you submit a job to the batch system, which holds it in a queue, along with those of other users, until there are sufficient nodes free to run your job. The HPC facility is not generally suitable for interactive work although some interactive services are available (please see the user guide for further information). 

All our systems run Linux meaning any software/applications you wish to run must be compatible with this operating system. You will also need some familiarity with the Linux command line terminal; if this is new to you, please read our introductions to the command-line and shell scripting. The Graduate School provide regular training courses on the use of the Linux command line for scientific computing; these courses are open for all students and staff. 

How do I start using the HPC service? 

To start using the HPC service, please read our “Get Access to High Performance Computing” guide. 

The support guide for the HPC service is hosted on ReadtheDocs.