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HPC meets AI - a world of possibilities

Jennifer O'Brien | Sept. 29, 2017
Businesses can automate routine processes, improve business efficiencies, upskill the workforce and transform user experience.

Photo via Computerworld Australia. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) will transform the technology landscape and touch almost every industry over the next 10 years.

That’s according to a group of experts (from government, industry and academia), who gathered in Sydney for an exclusive Computerworld and Lenovo Roundtable lunch to discuss the implications of AI and the emerging use cases.

Certainly, no domain of computing will escape the transformation, including high-performance computing (HPC), and there’s a definite link between AI and HPC, according to Lenovo enterprise solutions architect Joao Almeida.

Indeed, the marriage of HPC and AI has already taken place, he noted. The rapid emergence and adoption of AI is creating a world of opportunities for both scientific research and businesses.

Asked ‘why now’ and why it’s important, particularly for business, Almeida said companies are now starting to see the true business value of the technology - particularly the ability to automate routine processes, improve overall business efficiencies, upskill the workforce and transform the user experience.

“It became important quite a long time ago, but the markets and the enterprise, in particular, has only now started to come across it and are seeing possible business value out of it. Research in AI has been going on for a very long time and it has always been very close to HPC.”

Asked just how close, Almeida said HPC is the engine that helps deliver the promise of AI - the technological building blocks that help make it all happen and fuel the possibilities.

“To actually build an AI something  - and there are a lot of definitions for AI and machine learning (where it stops and when it starts) - you need to do a lot of work before you can actually use it,” he explained.

“Normally, you have a lot of unstructured data - or structured data - that you put through a model and that requires a lot of computation. And techniques that came from HPC are used a lot in that part of the workflow. Technology developments like GPU usage on that modelling and training phase of AI has been using HPC for a very long time.”

And while there’s opportunity in every industry sector, the oil and gas market, in particular, is already latching onto the technology and realising tangible operational cost benefits, Almeida noted.

“Efficiencies, for example, is probably one of the areas where companies in the oil and gas industry can see the benefits. Improving efficiencies by one per cent is only possible if they have a very good AI model looking at millions and thousands of sensor data and creating models that can improve efficiencies.”


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