New Supercomputer Takes Green Tech to the Next Level

By | Sep 14, 2012

The focus on green computing may have fallen by the wayside over the past few years as more pressing economic concerns exploded onto the scene, but a new supercomputer collaboration by Intel and HP may be powerful enough to combine these two concepts. While this new endeavor won't directly impact businesses in the short term, if the system turns out to be a success it could begin a change that will touch every corner of technology.

A New Era in Green Computing?

As detailed in this IT Pro article, HP and Intel are teaming up to build a new supercomputer that could be one of the most energy efficient in existence. The system should also have the potential to exceed one petaflop, or a thousand trillion floating point operations per second, making it one of the fastest classes of computers currently in use.

As detailed in this Wall Street Journal report, the computer is being built for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), which means that it can't play by the normal rules for massive computers. The air conditioning required to cool most machines of this size simply wouldn't mesh at all with NREL's mission for reducing power consumption. To combat this problem, HP and Intel are taking a two-pronged approach. First, they will include a combination of Xeon processors and 22nm Ivy Bridge processors alongside approximately 600 new Xeon Phi co-processors, which are specially designed to get quick answers while expending little energy.

The new systems will also turn to an old cooling strategy, water. The system will use 75 degree water to quickly cool the electronics and heat the water to around 95 degrees. It will then use the heated water at a nearby lab and office space. This process will greatly reduce air conditioning costs while slightly reducing water heating costs at the connected facility. The system, which should be running at full capacity by the middle of 2013, aims to be of the most energy efficient systems in the world.

The Impact on Business

While a government supercomputer obviously won't have an immediate effect on midsize businesses, the ripples of a new era in energy efficiency certainly will. Right now, an enormous amount of IT costs are wrapped up in running data centers, and as energy prices rise, this only looks to get worse in the near future.

If this new supercomputer proves to be successful, it won't be long before more systems combine extremely low-power chips with warm water cooling to produce similar results. IT managers in charge of their own data centers will want to keep an eye out for more low-power solutions on the horizon, and those who do most of their computing in the cloud should be able to leverage lower data center costs into reduced cloud computing prices.

In the end, this is simply another one of technology's steps in the direction of power and efficiency, a march that will ceaselessly move forward. Now, however, the green revolution is looking to get back into mainstream IT consciousness, giving IT managers who are able to take advantage of these types of low-power systems an extra edge up when it comes to marketing their efforts in a positive light.

Keep an eye on this new type of system, and watch for its effects on the market to begin in 2014.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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