New Sustainability Research from Hyperion Reveals Shifting Priorities for HPC

May 22, 2023

In April 2023, Hyperion Research conducted a survey sponsored by Dell Technologies, Intel, and NVIDIA regarding sustainability for high performance computing (HPC). The goal of the survey was to gain insights into the sustainability efforts in HPC, determine user prioritization of sustainability and energy efficiency in procurement decisions as well learn what sustainability initiatives are being considered throughout the HPC community. This article provides information on the Hyperion Research 2023 survey along with suggestions on what organizations need to consider in creating a sustainable, energy efficient data center. According to Jaclyn Ludema, Lead Sustainability Analyst, Hyperion Research, “This Hyperion Research study finds evidence of a remarkable rise of sustainability and energy efficiency to the top of priority lists for many HPC datacenter procurement plans, second only to performance, even a higher priority than price. A culmination of several geopolitical factors and HPC utilization trends in recent years has made the issue of sustainability unavoidable for many HPC sites.”

How the survey was conducted

The survey had worldwide coverage with a strong focus on international sites and focused on sustainability questions relating to HPC, artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing and results of using HPC. Data was collected via direct interviews and surveys of HPC and Cloud Service Provider (CSP) data center managers, directors or leads as well as scientists, researchers, and engineers.

Sustainability motivators

Survey results show that 57% of respondents were motivated by the idea of wanting to do more with less by expanding computing capabilities with lower power usage. As the number of AI, machine learning (ML) and high performance data analytics (HPDA) workloads performed on HPC systems continues to increase, the drive to expand computing capabilities is coming up against the cost of required energy. 48% of respondents cited Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals as a sustainability motivator. ESG goals of companies/organizations recognize the widespread benefits of prioritizing sustainability, not just in regard to costs of operations. 33% of those surveyed say they are encountering prohibitive energy costs, pointing to a more acute issue. Government regulation was cited twice as frequently in North America and EMEA as a sustainability motivator than in the APJ region.
Impact of energy costs

55% of respondents say that energy costs are impacting the level of investment available to them for new HPC systems. This percentage holds across the industry, government, and academia sectors.

When asked if energy costs impact operations within their HPC data centers, 58% of respondents indicated multiple impacts including:

  • 60% say energy costs will defer the purchase of new systems
  • 43% say energy costs will limit the capabilities of current systems
  • 34% say energy costs will reduce operational hours
  • 14% of industry respondents say 25% or more of their current site budget is a result of addressing sustainability goals or energy efficiency

Moving to the cloud

The rise in popularity of HPC cloud services comes from a variety of factors, including the ability to outsource operational concerns such as energy costs and sourcing. With energy costs on the rise worldwide, the option to outsource energy costs to a CSP is expected to gain popularity. Paired with the global trend of new government regulation surrounding sustainability, sites are looking to CSPs to meet new energy efficiency requirements. This survey adds quantitative evidence of these cloud trends.

  • 76% of respondents say energy costs influence their adoption of public cloud resources (to a great extent for 33% of respondents)
  • 62% say government regulation influences their adoption of public cloud resources

Priorities in sustainability goals

When discussing efforts to meet sustainability goals, approaches vary widely across HPC sites depending upon budget, access to renewable energy sources, procurement timelines, and time allotted for energy efficiency innovation. The study respondents selected their top priorities in sustainability goals as follows:

  • 52% prioritize efficient hardware configuration (higher performance per watt)
  • 42% prioritize optimized cooling and power distribution
  • 34% prioritize optimized workloads (identifying efficient workloads on-premises and in the cloud)

Procuring more sustainable equipment is expected to be a part of regularly scheduled procurement plans for 48% of sites, while 20% of sites will expedite procurement plans and 18% will delay procurement plans for sustainable solutions.

The following figure shows the factors that respondents believe should be included in a sustainability matrix:

Source Hyperion Research, May 2023.

Energy tracking at survey sites

Nearly half (49%) of data centers in the survey say they are currently able to measure their carbon footprint, energy use or environmental impact. Sites that measure their carbon footprint, energy use or environmental impact are also able to track and report on progress towards sustainability progress, increasing the likelihood of success in sustainability efforts.

In terms of plans to prioritize telemetry, smart power management (telemetry) usage is on the rise. Within the next 18 months, the number of sites implementing smart power management will increase to 40% from 27% using it today.

What it takes to create an energy efficient data center

With an already burdened electric grid, growing climate change concerns and regulatory pressures, more companies are determined to find energy efficient data center solutions to help lower their carbon footprint while reducing costs to help increase the bottom line. Creating an energy efficient data center involves many considerations such as:

  • Renewable energy sourcing
  • Efficient hardware configuration
  • Optimized cooling technology
  • Intelligent platform management
  • Data center power management
  • Optimized workloads
  • Responsible equipment retirement

Summary

Making sustainability a major goal and reducing energy usage in HPC systems and data centers is critical as found in the April 2023 Hyperion report sponsored by Dell, Intel, and NVIDIA.  Dell Technologies is a leader in climate action, sustainability, and innovation. According to Dr. Alyson Freeman, Dell Sustainability Product Manager, Infrastructure Solutions, “As the number of data centers will continue to grow, our increasingly digital economy does not have to be at odds with a sustainable transition. In fact, intentionally building more efficient data processing ecosystems and energy-smart configurations results in reduced energy use, lower carbon emissions, overall better performance, lower long-term costs, optimized space and reduced infrastructure footprints, and reduced waste output.”

Download the whitepaper, survey report, and read the full summary of the new research on Sustainability and Energy Efficiency in HPC.   

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