by Mischa van Kesteren, pre-sales engineer and sustainability officer at OCF
As I mentioned in my last post, sometimes replacing your existing infrastructure is the best option to create the efficiencies you need. However, as a starting point, I think the least invasive way and the first thing that we would look at with customers is: are they being smart with their scheduling software and are there benefits they can get in terms of reducing the power consumption of idle nodes.
Cloud bursting is another useful approach for sustainable HPC, particularly for instances when users have peak or infrequent workloads that don’t fit in their normal usage patterns. Using an automatic cloud resource for these workloads makes a lot of sense for temporary workloads. Rather than having 100 nodes on all the time, you may only need that capacity for four hours a day or once a week.
Large cloud providers can offer bigger benefits from economies of scale with power and energy efficiency using the latest cooling technologies and situating their data centres in more power efficient locations with greater renewable energy, like for example, Iceland. This approach also helps to outsource concerns over environmental efficiencies for an organisation.
Many universities have already voluntarily agreed to abide by the principles of the Paris Agreement for net zero by 2050. Some more ambitious institutions have committed to net zero by an earlier date. The high performance computing departments of these universities will certainly become an important factor in these considerations in the near future.
Ultimately computing is burning through energy to produce computational results. You cannot get away from the fact that you need to use electricity to produce results, so the best thing you can do is to try and get the most computation out of every watt you use. That comes down to using your cluster to its maximum level, but then also making sure you are not wasting power.
By configuring the cluster in more environmentally sensitive ways, considering cloud options and giving people the conscious choice to do this will all help towards creating a more sustainable HPC in the future.
If you’d like to get in touch for a chat about sustainability in HPC and how OCF can help you, please get in touch here.