How High-performance Computing Can Impact Sustainability Efforts
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High-performance computing (HPC) aggregates computing power to allow for the incredibly fast processing and calculation of huge amounts of data.
There are many practical applications of HPC across science, technology, business and academia that take advantage of the parallel nature of high-performance computational computing and data processing systems. In this article, we highlight some of the specific ways HPC can be applied to environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) efforts.
It's important to start by defining the term "sustainability" for HPC. In the greater computing world, sustainability has traditionally referred to sustained output in terms of floating-point operations per second (FLOPS), a standard measure of computing performance.
In the context of ESG solutions, however, sustainability means the efficient utilization of resources. Better utilization of resources, coupled with shorter timeframes, means improved environmental sustainability. And HPC can deliver on that goal as demonstrated through a variety of use cases.
Examples of some interesting HPC use cases we've seen in support of ESG efforts include:
- Weather prediction and climate change: Timely and more precise weather forecasting with a better understanding of climate change adaptation for optimized scheduling and impact.
- Energy and utilities: Developing real-time wind and solar maps for energy optimization and improved photovoltaic efficiency.
- Drug development: Accelerating drug discovery and developing personalized healthcare.
- Discrete manufacturing: Reducing or eliminating the need for physical testing, predictive and prescriptive maintenance, automation of product lifecycle management, and shortened design cycles.
A couple of these use cases are gaining particular momentum as organizations prioritize ESG.
Discrete manufacturing refers to the repeatable production of distinct items created from component parts (e.g., cars, planes, phones, furniture, etc.). HPC can shorten manufacturing design cycles by reducing or eliminating the need for physical prototyping and testing. This feat is often accomplished via digital twin technology, which creates a virtual representation of the technology in question via software designed to accurately reflect the physical object. Physically testing fewer systems has a net positive impact on the environment as well as the supportive systems powering prototyping and testing phases.
By leveraging HPC, discrete manufacturing and digital twins can help companies reduce their costs, resource usage and carbon footprint while positioning them to become more disruptive, innovative and agile via customer-centric business models.
Climate change is one of the most pressing issues ESG policies can tackle. HPC plays a critical role as it gives organizations the compute power needed to analyze and act on massive volumes of weather and climate data.
By combining extensive real-time weather data with geospatial analytics, companies and countries now have a better tool to monitor and predict changes in weather and the environment — even over mid- and long-term timeframes. HPC solutions can also provide insight into how such events might potentially impact operations and help organizations better prepare for inclement weather. For industries like transportation and logistics, insurance, agriculture and energy, this type of information can be critical.
As one example, shipping is one of the most fuel-efficient methods of transportation but also one of the highest polluting. HPC-powered algorithms that consider vessel type, size, typical climate for that season and location, current weather conditions and more can identify alternative shipping routes that can reduce emissions and fuel consumption.
HPC-driven solutions possess an untapped potential to drive better sustainability and social outcomes across industries. As you think about how HPC might help you achieve your ESG goals, we recommend that you start by defining the problem(s) you're trying to solve and the goals you want to meet. From there, work with experienced data and analytics experts to assess your relevant IT infrastructure and environment, determine what data needs to be captured, and build a framework to execute your HPC plan as it relates to ESG.
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