Bring your supercomputer to the power

Bring your supercomputer to the power

Summary: Nordic European countries team up to test the feasibility of remote supercomputing

TOPICS: Data Centers

Traditionally, supercomputers have been the domain of research institutions and universities, with systems built on-site and a certain amount of cachet accompanying the mere fact that a particular location was the home to this level of computing power. But the reality of the power consumption and facility needs for supercomputers in light of the movement towards greener computing has made organizations begin to reconsider how they implement supercomputer installations.

In a pilot project designed to evaluate the feasibility of deploying a supercomputer installation where the cheapest power and cooling can be found, the Thor Datacenter in Iceland is hosting a new supercomputer that is a joint project of Iceland and other Nordic nations.

With both an economic incentive (power is cheap in Iceland), and an environmental one (power is primarily from renewable resources such as geothermal, and cooling is free air due to external temperatures year round) offsetting the operational costs of a power and cooling-hungry supercomputer by placing it in a datacenter in Iceland and accessing it remotely, makes a great deal of sense.

This datacenter supercomputing experiment is a joint project of the University of Iceland, the Norwegian university research network provider UNINETT group, the Danish Center for Scientific Computing, and the Swedish National Infrastructure for Computing.

The primary issue will be one of whether or not the tasks that the supercomputer is set to are suitable for completely remote operations.  Should that prove to be practical, utilizing the natural environmental attractions of Iceland will become a more acceptable alternative for high performance computing users worldwide. Given that the vast majority of work done by supercomputers is of the "launch job and come back in a few hours (or days)" variety, the chances of this becoming a more common installation technique are good.

Topic: Data Centers

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • too cold?

    The SOP is to waste large amounts of energy keeping datacenters well below acceptable operating temps.

    Modern hardware can operate in much higher temperatues then the industry has grown accustomed to. Here is a link to a supporting study by intel.

    Also, a truely "green" system would recapture the heat produced by the hardware for conversion into electricity.
  • Great idea!

    "[i]placing it in a datacenter in Iceland and accessing it remotely[/i]"

    Great idea! It sounds like the Russians should look into putting data centers in Siberia, America in Alaska, and Canada near Alaska too. Possibly put up some wind or wave power generators too.
  • Why not put them in orbit? Outerspace, where the elements and storms

    and earthquakes and tornadoes and terror activities won't be a worry?

    We put our satellites and GPS systems out there, with a lot of confidence and dependence on them, so, why not "supercomputers"? Those satellites and GPS systems are, in reality, supercomputers in themselves, so why not the systems intended for huge data processing and huge mathematical and scientific models?

    The biggest worry would be the solar flares, but, hopefully, someone will figure out a way to create some good shields against that.

    With orbit-based systems, there won't be environmental worries, and power could be eternal and from the sun and free.
    • extension cord

      I guess if you can get enough power from the sun then your idea might work, otherwise I think you'll need a long extension cord. Launching nuclear reactors into space is not a popular idea, and they're just heavy to boot.

      Also, satellites are hardly super computers in any sense. If it were that easy to build a super computer, we'd all have one. Any dumb rock can be a satellite. The most expensive part of a satellite is getting it up there. It's better to keep it down here where you can put hands on it. Hubble, anyone?
      • I think I may have just encountered the most ignorant person in the whole


        Ever hear of solar power panels? There have been many satellites that have used solar power, through solar panels, as their whole energy source. Building one that's adequate enough for a "supercomputer" would be a great feat, but, totally doable.

        "Hubble anyone"? You gotta be kidding!

        Ever hear of GPS systems? Those things have to be up there for many years, and they have to be reliable for many different industries, and the consumer and the military. So, why would computers be any different. BTW, those GPS systems carry a lot of computer power with them, with millions of decisions being made each and every second, and computations happening a lot faster than on most computers down here on the "readily accessible" systems that people can "put their hands on".

        It sounds to me like your thinking is 30 or 40 years behind the times. Better study up and keep up. The times; they are a'changing.