– Matthew Larbey, Product Strategy Director at VIRTUS, says:
High Performance Computing, once seen as the reserve of the mega-corporation, is today being viewed by businesses as a way of countering the increasing divide between shrinking IT budgets and increasing demand for higher performance in business.
However, before High Performance Computing can be put into practice, data centres need to adopt High Density innovation strategies to maximise productivity and efficiency, increase available power density and ‘per foot’ computing power.
Sounds simple. Doesn’t it? Well it would be except that everyone seems to have their own ideas about what High Density actually is causing widespread confusion in the industry.
Even Gartner recently waded into the debate with its definition stating that a High Density capability is one where the energy needed is more than 15kW per rack for a given set of rows. But this is being revised upwards all the time with some High Performance Computing platforms now requiring performance in the 30-40kW range – sometimes referred to as Ultra High Density.
So who can support High Performance Computing and why is it Important?
Being able to support High Performance Computing in the data centre, using High Density innovation, has become the next battle ground for colocation providers trying to entice customers to buy-in to their data centre; and goes some way to explaining the differing views around what High Density actually is – and how to support it. Some will have higher density capabilities than others – though few providers will admit it – which goes some way to explaining the industries inability to agree.
High Density capability will be become a deciding factor for businesses when looking at which third party data centre to use in the future. If High Density has been designed ‘in’ from the beginning, it will provide the ability to support the next generation of businesses IT infrastructure for High Performance Computing, thus optimising the data centre footprint required and the overall associated costs.
This means that irrespective of whether existing data centres take steps to offer High Density, they are playing catch-up with a next generation of intelligent data centres that already have this capability.
As a result, data centres over five years old will come under increasing pressure to align to new, more powerful technologies being installed in the data centres, and remain competitive in the marketplace.
Upgrading Legacy Data Centres for High Density
Existing data centres that do take steps to offer High Density and accommodate the installation and running of High Performance Computing will have to upgrade their facilities in most cases. This however, is easier said than done.
Although the concept of High Density is straight forward, it involves a lot more than simply main-lining more electricity into the building. Therefore, it’s essential that before a data centre can support this requirement, it has a robust and fit-for-purpose infrastructure in place.
High Density not only requires increased quantities of power per cabinet, but also next generation cooling capabilities, which can be extremely difficult to retrofit.
Advanced cooling is essential as more energy consumption and harder working servers naturally equate to more heat. Given data centres have very strict operating parameters when it comes to temperature, this means that a data centre needs not only to be able to cope with the extra power being piped into the building but also the extra heat being pumped out.
The ability to cool the equipment therefore is critical to the operational integrity and performance of any high density computing data centre.
Consequently, many traditional data centres struggle to provide High Densities within the Racks – even at a medium density – without a supplementary cooling and support infrastructure or a compromise to the original data centre design, which would be extremely costly and negate the customer cost benefits of High Performance Computing.
Make the Right High Density Choice
Lots of data centres will claim to deliver High Density Computing, and technically speaking, many will, but only intelligent data centres that have been built from the ground up with high density in mind will be able to do so cost effectively.
As such, it’s more important than ever that businesses conduct due diligence before signing up with data centre providers otherwise they run the risk of tying themselves into costly long-term contracts that neither meet the current or future needs of the business.
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