High-performance computing (HPC) is the use of parallel processing for running advanced application programs efficiently, reliably and quickly. The term applies especially to systems that function above a teraflop or 1012 floating-point operations per second. The term HPC is occasionally used as a synonym for supercomputing, although technically a supercomputer is a system that performs at or near the currently highest operational rate for computers. Some supercomputers work at more than a petaflop or 1015 floating-point operations per second.
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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. High-performance systems often use custom-made components in addition to so-called commodity components. As demand for processing power and speed grows, HPC will likely interest businesses of all sizes, particularly for transaction processing and data warehouses. An occasional techno-fiends might use an HPC system to satisfy an exceptional desire for advanced technology.