High-Performance Computing:

Industry Uses of Supercomputers and High-Speed Networks

IMTEC-91-58: Published: Jul 30, 1991. Publicly Released: Sep 11, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed industrial use of supercomputers and high-speed networks, focusing on: (1) how various industries use supercomputers to improve products, reduce costs, save time, and provide other benefits; (2) barriers that inhibit increased supercomputer usage; and (3) how certain industries used and benefitted from high-speed networks.

GAO found that: (1) supercomputers contribute significantly to the oil, automobile, aerospace, and chemical and pharmaceutical industries' ability to solve complex problems by enabling companies to design new and better products in less time and to simulate intricate product tests; (2) some companies attributed significant cost savings to using supercomputers; (3) one oil company estimated that over the last decade, supercomputer usage resulted in increased oil production worth between $5 billion and $10 billion; (4) even though companies reported widespread supercomputer usage, some companies indicated that barriers hindering increased usage included the high cost of supercomputers, a lack of application software, the shift from physical experiments to an increased reliance on computational experiments, and a lack of education or training; (5) high-speed networks contributed to increased productivity by enabling industries to more efficiently share information and resources and collaborate on long-distance product development; (6) the oil, automobile, and computer industries relied on high-speed networks to transfer large graphics and data files, and to access computers worldwide; (7) in many cases, companies must use high-speed networks because applications require high transmission speeds, high volumes of transmittal traffic, or a fast response; and (8) several companies reported that they would not be able to timely develop products without high-speed networks.

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