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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.
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.