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Infrastructure HPC 2012 Laying the foundation

Ensuring the right HPC infrastructure is in place requires detailed planning and careful monitoring. Industry experts offer their advice

Investigating the ideal infrastructure Richard Chapman, business development director at Aegis Data, questions whether traditional data centres are prepared for a paradigm shift

Te reliance on high- performance computing (HPC) is increasing at a dramatic rate as it penetrates more and more aspects of business and society. Te demands

on HPC are also changing as data crunching becomes as important a topic as number crunching. Fast, precise results are required from the most demanding applications, whether it is for advanced modelling techniques in manufacturing and analysis for oil production, or weather forecasting, financial analytics and computational chemistry. As this demand increases and data volumes continue to rise, the infrastructure to support it needs to adapt, with around-the-clock access to data that is stored in a reliable and secure location. Many HPC projects oſten only require a

large number of core processors and access to complex data structures over a defined timescale, such as a week or a month. Terefore, a flexible, yet powerful infrastructure is required to support these activities. Data centres need to be able to transform into ‘service centres’ that deliver applications on-demand and respond to changing requirements with speed and agility. Whereas HPC used to be reliant on grid

computing – oſten with thousands of desktops sharing the same resources in a distributed architecture – there appears to be a paradigm shiſt, moving away from the old technology


which was so reliant on the low power, high footprint infrastructure. Te next- generation HPC platforms are now moving to a virtualised environment that integrates virtualised networks, computing and storage. Storage virtualisation technologies can help organisations eliminate redundant data, reduce bandwidth requirements, gain flexibility and better utilise existing infrastructure to reduce space, power and cooling requirements. Virtualisation used to be off limits for HPC

because the added overhead and complexity would only reduce performance. However, there have been major technological advances in virtualisation and the development of virtual stacking via blade server technology, which provides the agility, flexibility and fast deployment required to support the crunching of terabytes of generated data. Blade servers allow more

processing power in less space, simplifying cabling as well as reducing power consumption. Blade servers are much smaller and compact, with a chassis taking up a quarter of a standard rack but drawing between 4 to 10kW. To put it into perspective, 100 old physical servers can now be reduced to one blade server chassis, which obviously results in a smaller footprint. However, these blade servers do require higher power density per U of rackspace and as such

require more advanced cooling technologies. Although the blade’s shared power and cooling means that it does not generate as much heat as the 100 traditional servers, the increased density of blade server configurations will result in higher overall demands on power consumption per rack, resulting in localised hotspots. Te issue that many organisations face,

“Many HPC projects oſten only require a large number of core processors and access to complex data structures over a defined timescale, such as a week or a month”

however, is that many legacy data centres were not built to accommodate this new evolution, and adapting existing facilities from a low average power over a large space to a higher average power over a small space is simply not cost effective. Tis raises the question of whether it is time to move to a new data centre that can accommodate this paradigm shiſt? Data centres designed for

this next generation of HPC infrastructure will comprise an optimised environment that makes better utilisation of power and space, has a lower total cost of

ownership and is able to cope with the demands and stresses of virtualisation. As the use of HPC proliferates within organisations, the demands for more processing power will grow and the amount of unstructured data that needs to be analysed will continue to double. Data centres will need to have a strong, dedicated power supply with the flexibility and scalability to match IT load and the capability of delivering power headroom to meet future growth.


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