Hands-On Introduction to High Performance Computing

17 - 18 January 2019

This course provides a general introduction to High Performance Computing (HPC) using the UK national HPC service, ARCHER, and/or Cirrus as the platforms for the exercises.

Familiarity with desktop computers is presumed but no programming, Linux or HPC experience is required. Programmers can however gain extra benefit from the course as source code for all the practicals will be provided.


Adrian Jackson

Adrian Jackson is a Research Architect at EPCC, where he works on a range of different research, from investigating new memory hardware and programming models, to optimising and porting parallel codes, and working with application scientists to enable their computational simulation or data analysis. He also teaches on EPCC's MSc in HPC, giving lectures on Programming Skills, HPC Architecture, and Performance Programming.



High-performance computing (HPC) is a fundamental technology used in solving scientific problems. Many of the grand challenges of science depend on simulations and models run on HPC facilities to make progress, for example: protein folding, the search for the Higgs boson, and developing nuclear fusion.

The course will run for 2 days. The first day covers the the basic concepts underlying the drivers for HPC development, HPC hardware, software, programming models and applications. The second day will provide an opportunity for more practical experience, information on performance and the future of HPC. This foundation will give the you ability to appreciate the relevance of HPC in your field and also equip you with the tools to start making effective use of HPC facilities yourself.

On completion of the course, we expect that attendees will be in a position to undertake the ARCHER Driving Test, and potentially qualify for an account and CPU time on ARCHER.

The course is delivered using a mixture of lectures and practical sessions and has a very practical focus. During the practical sessions you will get the chance to use ARCHER with HPC experts on-hand to answer your questions and provide insight.

This course is free to all academics.

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of this course students should be able to explain:

  • Why HPC? - What are the drivers and motivation? Who uses it?
  • HPC Hardware - Building blocks and architectures
  • Parallel computing - Programming models and implementations
  • Using HPC systems - Access, compilers, resource allocation and performance
  • The Future of HPC
  • Undertake the ARCHER Driving Test


Attendees are expected to have experience of using desktop computers, but no programming, Linux or HPC experience is necessary.

Attendees should bring their own wireless-enabled laptop with the required software pre-installed - please see our software page for details.


Details are subject to change, but start, end and break times will stay the same.

Day 1

  • 09:30 Welcome, Overview and Syllabus
  • 09:45 LECTURE: Why learn about HPC?
  • 10:15 LECTURE: Image Sharpening?
  • 10:30 PRACTICAL: Sharpen example
  • 11:00 BREAK: Coffee
  • 11:30 LECTURE: Parallel Programming
  • 12:15 PRACTICAL: Sharpen (cont.)
  • 13:00 BREAK: Lunch
  • 14:00 LECTURE: Building Blocks (CPU/Memory/Accelerators)
  • 14:30 LECTURE: Building Blocks (OS/Process/Threads)
  • 15:00 LECTURE: Fractals
  • 15:10 PRACTICAL: Fractal example
  • 15:30 BREAK: Tea
  • 16:00 LECTURE: Parallel programming models
  • 16:45 PRACTICAL: Fractals (cont.)
  • 17:30 Finish

Day 2

  • 09:30 LECTURE: HPC Architectures
  • 10:15 LECTURE: Batch systems
  • 10:45 PRACTICAL: Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)
  • 11:00 BREAK: Coffee
  • 11:30 PRACTICAL: CFD (cont.)
  • 12:30 LECTURE: Compilers
  • 13:00 BREAK: Lunch
  • 14:00 PRACTICAL: Compilers (CFD cont.)
  • 14:30 LECTURE: Parallel Libraries
  • 15:00 LECTURE: Future of HPC
  • 15:30 BREAK: Tea
  • 16:00 LECTURE: Summary
  • 16:15 PRACTICAL: Finish exercises
  • 17:00 Finish

Lunch and refreshments will NOT be provided but there are places locally where these can be purchased.

Course Materials

Links to the Slides and exercise material for this course.


The course will be held at Robert Gordon University


Please use the registration page to register for ARCHER courses.


If you have any questions please contact the ARCHER Helpdesk.