Sustainability in HPC data centers: different sources of energy
The future is sustainable, that much is clear. However, making this future a reality is a whole new ballgame. If you want to learn how high-performance data centers go about ensuring sustainability, read our blog post.
While researching for our e-book “Raising the stakes: How HPC supercharges your business”, we briefly touched on the topic of energy consumption. As the topic of sustainability in data centers is complex, we decided to talk about the future of HPC in the next e-book in detail.
Until then, here’s a preview of how high-performance data centers deal with the increase in energy needs - such demands can be costly to the cloud service providers, not just financially but also ecologically.
There are various ways of conserving energy and also reusing excess energy, so we will mention the sources of energy that are viable for the future of high-performance computing (HPC) data centers.
Choosing cloud computing
Since HPC data centers are not limited to exclusive locations, they can be placed in locations where energy production can be sufficient, more affordable, and renewable. Because of their infrastructure, such luxury of choice can be hard to provide to urban city center businesses. Smaller data centers are optimized for delivering computing power efficiently using but a fraction of traditional energy sources while meeting versatile clients’ needs.
Lower energy consumption means cloud computing is more profitable and safer, and sustainable in the long term. A shift from non-renewable energy resources to renewable ones can be seen in the leading cloud computing service providers. This is visible in the renewable energy market, where the biggest buyers are the cloud computing giants.
Reducing carbon footprint is no small task, so HPC data centers tackle the problem with multiple approaches. Cloud computing allows for a higher utilization rate since it is provided to more businesses and gives a more precise estimate of how much capacity is needed, so less of it is not utilized. Higher utilization results in higher usage of the equipment, and with it comes the need to exchange the equipment. This might seem like a cost at first. However, it is essential to note that once the equipment is exchanged for the newer, it usually means that it is more technically advanced and comes with lower energy requirements for the exact specifications.
This means that in time, the initial difference in price will level itself out, and the benefits will outweigh the initial costs.
What sources of energy are used
Regarding the choice of renewable energy sources that will be used for cloud computing, service providers usually go for wind power and solar power. If the energy output is insufficient, a hybrid approach is used where the missing energy is acquired from the local power grid.
Renewable energy from wind farms is one of the most cost-effective solutions for cloud data centers. Since data centers don’t need to be located in urban areas, wind turbines can be placed in the vicinity. This benefits cloud service providers and local landowners, creating clean green energy. The most significant advantage of the wind as an energy source is reliable, limitless, and sustainable energy generation.
Solar power energy generation is also one of the choices for many cloud computer industry leaders. Solar power means focusing on green energy and ecological health, which means carbon footprint has been compensated for, which results in its reduction in the future. The benefits of powering the data center are ecological viability, a lower impact on the local power grid, sustainability, and stable cost. Due to the variability of fossil fuel costs, solar power is a cost reduction tool in the whole cloud computing operation. Such price stability and reliability reduces long-term cost significantly and lessens the economic impact after installation costs are accounted for.
Decreasing energy requirements
Even by switching to renewable energy, some optimizations are utilized to reduce energy consumption and repurpose the used energy. Even though by default, HPC data centers are more energy-efficient than traditional in-house data processing units, this efficiency is further increased by combining environmental and technical elements.
Technical elements are used to reduce energy expenditure without compromising the output. This is achieved by scaling and provisioning computing resources that, if matched with the actual demand, reduce overprovisioning and minimize waste. Also, since cloud computing providers have large data centers, they have access to custom equipment that beats the standard counterparts in efficiency regarding output versus energy consumption. It’s not only the cloud computing equipment that’s efficient. Even the data center's infrastructure is designed to reduce energy consumption through optimized lighting, cooling, and power conditioning.
Coupling technical optimization with natural ones, such as placing the data center in cold areas of the world, further reduces energy expenditure. Since operational energy consumption is contributed not only by processing but also by cooling in colder places, it is possible to use cold air and water to reduce heat without using energy for the process. As the technology develops, so do the ways and efficiency of equipment cooling. That’s why liquid immersion cooling, evaporative cooling, and geothermal cooling are available in addition to standard air cooling.
An excellent example of recycled excess energy can be found in a data center in Denmark, where excess heat generated by the servers is captured and redistributed by a heat pump to the local district heating system. Such an example shows that HPC data centers can increase their sustainability and also of their surroundings as well.
It is visible that HPC data centers are using less energy than traditional in-house computing solutions. This allows for higher processing output at a reduced cost.
As we can see in the current climate of fluctuating fossil fuel prices and availability, many more cloud computing providers are switching to renewable energy. Solar and wind power are sources of such significance because they provide an excellent cost-to-benefit ratio and are reliable and sustainable.
By combining renewable energy and technical optimizations such as using dedicated hardware, data center infrastructure, and environment, it is possible to reduce long-term costs of energy consumption, both economically and environmentally. With the example of new technologies and even recycling spent energy, it is understandable why high-performance data centers are an increasingly important market segment. Even with the increasing customer base, fewer servers and less energy are used. Such advances show that the future of cloud computing will sync technology and environment successfully.
Your take on the subject
They say knowledge has power only if you pass it on - we hope our blog post gave you valuable insight.
If you want to share your opinion or learn more about sustainability in terms of high-performance computing, feel free to contact us. We'd love to hear what you have to say!