The costs of HPCs, just like their speeds, can involve baffling numbers. One way to think about how much they’re worth is to look at how much the cost of running a job costs, both in terms of time and money, on a supercomputer rather than by other means.
It costs $10million every year to run Japan’s K Computer. The power it consumes is one of the biggest costs. When its processing prowess was measured in the bid for #1 in the TOP500 list, it used 12.66MW/h – as much as 30,000 average homes. However, the performance per unit of power is actually very high, and less energy is wasted moving data around.
From the perspective of being drivers of computer technology, HPC is definitely worth it. Many new technologies in computer chip design and overall computer architecture were first tested in supercomputers, but have eventually led to the high degree of connectivity we all experience in modern society every day. Many of us carry around in our pockets what in the 1990s would have been considered a supercomputer– in the form of smart phones and tablet computers.