Why speed matters
First, let's talk a bit about why speed is important and why we optimize it at all. It might not be obvious, but enormous hardware performance improvements have happened in the last decade or two. 14 years ago, I was involved with a project that focused on building a supercomputer for computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations performed by an aircraft engine design company. The system consisted of 64 servers, occupied three 42-inch racks, and required dedicated cooling and power subsystems. The hardware alone (without cooling) cost almost $1M.
In 2005, this supercomputer occupied fourth place for Russian supercomputers and was the fastest system installed in the industry. Its theoretical performance was 922 GFLOPS (billion floating-point operations per second), but in comparison to the GTX 1080 Ti released 12 years later, all the capabilities of this pile of iron look tiny.
One single GTX 1080 Ti is able to perform 11,340 GFLOPS, which is 12.3 times...