HPC in the Cloud: How the Public Sector and Nonprofits Can Finally Take Advantage
Jan 11, 2022
High performance computing (HPC) is how many organizations and experts solve hard technical problems. HPC makes it possible to analyze huge data sets, manage complex machine learning algorithms, and run vast simulations. In the real world, HPC is how we can accurately forecast the weather or develop new solutions to longstanding problems without needing to test every combination of variables.
Put simply, HPC is crucial for innovation. But for a long time, many organizations didn’t have access to HPC. Why? Because it is so demanding from a resource perspective.
What is High Performance Computing?
HPC describes when organizations aggregate computing power to accomplish far more than what’s possible on any one server or desktop computer. For a long time, HPC was primarily accessible via on-premises supercomputers. IT departments needed extremely powerful processors, memory, communication capabilities, storage, and networking to take full advantage.
Of course, all of this comes at a cost.
HPC is expensive and difficult to set up. The benefits of HPC are obvious. However, the investment required to get started often deters businesses and organizations, especially those with limited capital. And a couple industries in particular that are always under financial pressure are the public sector and nonprofits.
Nonprofits have the difficult task of building sustainable organizations that are under immense pressure to use the money they’ve been given wisely. Many nonprofits raise funding from donors who would rather see their gifts used in a way that serves people rather than supports the back office. Even though behind-the-scenes operations are critical. For obvious reasons, raising funding for HPC is a much harder sell to potential supporters than raising money for first aid or boots-on-the-ground work.
Given this reality, nonprofits have struggled to tap into the innovative potential that exists through HPC. Most can’t tackle the exciting problems that for-profit or venture-backed entities can with disruptive technologies, like AI/ML, big data analytics, and the IoT. But contrary to popular belief, nonprofits can benefit from these technologies.
With AI/ML, nonprofits can study donor trends, uncover new insights about complex social problems, and automate inefficient workflows. They can deploy tailored recommendation engines and intelligent chatbots that enhance user experiences, increasing the likelihood that donors give money to a particular cause. Through IoT devices, nonprofits can gather data directly from the field and refine outreach efforts based on their findings. For instance, a nonprofit focused on helping rural farmers improve yield could install low-cost IoT sensors that take soil readings at regular intervals across large geographic areas. That way, farmers could focus on planting crops only in rich soil rather than waste any effort cultivating barren land.
AS for the public sector, like nonprofit organizations, public sector organizations such as state and local governments are often strapped for funding. They are also held accountable for how they invest resources and support constituents. However, the cloud can alleviate these pain points by giving government officials the tools they need to realize the benefits of HPC without having to take on more IT administrative burdens.
Public sector teams can collect, process, and analyze demographic information, socioeconomic data, or really anything that impacts government initiatives. They can apply HPC in the cloud to better understand problems in their communities and emerging trends. They can then deploy new applications, build models, or create simulations that predict the consequences of government action more accurately.
The potential use cases for HPC at nonprofits and the public sector are endless. The challenge is how to make HPC more accessible. Fortunately, advances in the cloud computing space have opened up a world of possibilities in this area. Nonprofits can now access HPC computing power through the cloud. They don’t have to invest significant capital upfront or hire expensive technology resources to manage such complex infrastructure.
Accessing HPC in the Cloud
Cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure have evolved significantly since launching. In 2021, these companies now offer incredible cloud-native solutions and infrastructure under pay-as-you-go pricing models. They also enable organizations to offload much of the administrative burden associated with maintaining IT infrastructure through managed services.
HPC is included in what’s now accessible through the cloud, along with serverless architecture, microservices, DevOps tools, and more that can be used to execute HPC workloads. Through these technologies, nonprofits and the public sector finally have access to the same resources that the for-profit world has enjoyed for years. Nonprofits can enhance services for constituents, attract more donations, and build better platforms that advance their missions more effectively. The public sector can implement higher-quality solutions based on real-world data.
The key lies in understanding how to do this well. More specifically, the key lies in understanding how to prove that HPC has a direct impact on outcomes. For many public sector organizations and nonprofits, the way forward is to choose the right cloud platform with the most robust suite of HPC-oriented cloud solutions available. It also often involves picking the right cloud consulting expert to guide you without distracting you from your day-to-day responsibilities.
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