Writing for the Personal Views on Research eInfrastructures blog, Fabio Gallo of Eurotech calls attention to the energy challenges facing IT and HPC. He notes that despite IT being a heavy user of energy, the average person doesn’t think of this space in that way. In fact, IT’s carbon footprint sits at about 2 percent of the world’s total, putting it on par with the airline industry. More troubling, the sector’s energy usage is on the rise, with a double-digit growth rate. For comparison, transportation-related energy consumption is only on a 1 percent incline. It’s an issue that spans the entire datacenter industry from the largest capacity setups to the most elite capability supercomputers, and everything in between.
“HPC (High Performance Computing) has long seen energy cost and availability as the biggest challenges for future developments. It is not a surprise that the HPC segment is currently adopting the most advanced solutions for energy efficiency, aiming to reduce consumption of both IT equipment and datacenter infrastructure, as well as reusing the thermal energy servers produce,” writes Gallo.
“Designing more energy efficient systems means taking an approach where efficiency comes first. This implies making HW and SW design choices that maximize performance within a target power budget, leveraging heterogeneous architectures, accelerators, solid state disks, no-fan liquid cooled systems and in general choosing always the components that can guarantee more efficiency.”
Gallo, who is vice president and general manager of Eurotech’s HPC strategic business unit, emphasizes the benefits of “free cooling,” referring to techniques that enable the IT equipment to be cooled without additional energy. Approaches include using ambient air when feasible, as well as warm water cooling.
Securing the equipment and tools needed to realize greater efficiency, however, requires “non trivial R&D investments” by system manufacturers and operators of HPC centers. Gallo suggests that it’s possible for overall costs to rise if manufacturer’s pro-efficiency R&D spend outpaces the TCO savings of lower electricity bills.
“As long as setting up an energy inefficient datacentre is an economically viable option for IT equipment owners, it is unlikely that substantial progress will be made towards reversing a dangerous trend,” he contends.
Gallo calls on European stakeholders to lead the way developing IT and HPC energy strategies that are sustainable for the long-term.