The steady increase in HPC research, the development of more scalable, flexible and energy efficient supercomputer systems in the last 10 years has extended the reach and accuracy of mature supercomputing applications and enabled a myriad of emerging fascinating ones in meteorology, biology, nanotechnology, finance, population dynamics and fluid dynamics to name a few. Supercomputing has now become an indispensable tool to the solution of complex problems in almost any sector.
In this special theme of "Supercomputing at Work" we will see invited and special articles covering diverse research areas. HPC (or Supercomputing) is now widely used every day in climate modelling and weather prediction for our daily forecasts, while members of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF) have systems that predict the expected temperature changes in degrees Celsius as far forward as 2060. On the opposite side of this environmental coin we have reached "Peak Oil" and new energy finds or new sources are required. New research tools like quantitative seismic analysis can be used to detect the presence of hydrocarbons below the sea floor and recover the fuel using CO2 injection techniques (which is also a means of CO2 sequestration).
In the fields of electronics and information communication technology, as expected, diverse applied projects have emerged from hardware applications such as nanoCMOS device simulations, exploitation of games architectures in Cell Multi-Processor Arrays and Grid-scheduling systems for high-performance computing applications.
Medicine and computational biosystems (mathematical and computational approaches to large-scale bioinformatics and systems biology) are two of the main biological areas that have shown rapid growth in utilising HPC systems and infrastructures. Companies are looking at personalized medicine and EU research is progressing in this area including the use of desktop Grids to store e-Health data. Researchers can now use mathematical techniques in the analysis of human bone structures to improve diagnosis of osteoporosis and large-scale computing resources have been applied to cerebrovascular modelling, surgical planning and intervention.
Some really exciting work is also now happening where the large-scale computing architectures allow detailed modelling of complex systems. In this issue we see large-scale immune system models and visualization applications in the field of computational biology. HPC techniques can model the population dynamics of bacterial colonies by taking into account the unique characteristics of each individual bacterial cell and its local environmental conditions. The Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory Coastal Ocean Modelling System (POLCOMS) is prime example of a simulation system that can handle the global marine environment. At its core, POLCOMS predicts the effects of pressure, density etc to provide the forces that drive the flow of water in our seas. The advances in software and hardware have provided the infrastructure for HPC and the strategic investment in science and technology now allows us to study problems of our society including energy, health and climate change.
Complex mathematical and computational techniques that utilise HPC resources now provide solutions to real problems in the many areas such as biological, structural and chemical engineering, fluid dynamics and also thermodynamics. This renewed interest and investment in Supercomputing will see the EU competing strongly with the US and Japan within the next decade and hopefully provide some assistance in shaping systems for health, energy and climate for the generations to come.
IBM Zurich Research Laboratory, Switzerland
Centre for Scientific Computing & Complex Systems
(SCI-SYM), Dublin City University, Ireland