Bring your supercomputer to the power

Nordic European countries team up to test the feasibility of remote supercomputing
Written by David Chernicoff, Contributor

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.

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