About a year ago John Stone, a senior research programmer at the University of Illinois, and his colleagues found a way to bypass the long waits for computer time at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.
Stone's team got "personal supercomputers," compact machines with a stack of graphics processors that together pack quite a punch and can be used to run complex simulations.
"Now instead of taking a couple of days and waiting in a queue, we can do the calculations locally," says Stone. "We can do more and better science."
Personal supercomputers are available in many flavors, both as clusters of CPU and graphics processing units (GPUs). But it is GPU computing that is gaining in popularity for its ability to offer researchers easy and quick access to raw computing power. That's opening up a new market for makers of GPUs, such as Nvidia and AMD, which have traditionally focused on high-end video cards for gamers and graphics pros.