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High-performance computing (HPC) has a very different dynamic to the mainstream. It enables classes of computation of strategic importance to nation states and their agencies, and so it attracts investment and innovation that is to some extent decoupled from market forces.

Sometimes it leads the mass market, sometimes it builds on it, and with the advent of massive cloud infrastructure, something like a supercomputer can even be built from scratch through a browser, providing you have a high-performance credit card.

But national supercomputer efforts are where innovation of technologies, perhaps with wider applications in their future, is pushing ahead. The current goal is exascale, computers capable of sustained 1018 floating point instructions per second (FLOPS) measured by standard benchmarks. Everyone’s in the race.

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