High-Performance Computing (HPC), is the use of aggregated computing power for handling compute- and data-intensive tasks that are either too large for standard computers or would take too long. These specialized HPC systems, when deployed at large scale, are sometimes referred to as supercomputers. Desktop computers have processors, memory, disk, operating system, so do supercomputers, like "Deep Blue" - the first computer system to beat a reigning World Chess Master (Garry Kaspirov). Supercomputers are built: sometimes 10,000 of thousands of processors make up a single machine.

Most HPCs today are a cluster of smaller powerful computers. When two or more computers are connected and used together to support a single application, the connected system is called a cluster. The individual computers in a cluster are nodes. The point of having a high performance computer is so that the individual nodes can work together to solve a problem larger than any one computer can easily solve.

The corresponding distribution of data and operations across several units requires the concept of parallelization. Parallel computing is the simultaneous use of multiple compute resources to solve a computational problem. In parallel computing, a problem is broken into discrete parts, each part is further broken down to a series of instructions, instructions from each part execute simultaneously on different processors and an overall control/coordination mechanism is employed.

The most common users of HPC systems are scientific researchers, engineers and academic institutions. Some government agencies, particularly the military, also rely on HPC for complex applications. More recently HPC is being used by researchers in social media, semantics, geology, archeology, materials, urban planning, graphics, genomics, brain imaging, economics, game design and even music. The list will continue to expand as more people are introduced to the possibilities of using HPC, bringing their own unique understanding of how it can be used in their fields.

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