Data Center Design

How can data centers support High-Performance Computing?

This is a contributed piece from Greg McCulloch, CEO at Aegis Data


The growth in technology in absolutely every business is driving a dramatic change in the way that data in processed and used. Until relatively recently, intense data crunching was the privilege of computer science labs, research institutes, government departments and defense facilities. Today however, data is becoming the new currency, as it is used increasingly to create competitive edge and drive new business models.

Retailers are now harnessing the power of multichannel shopping to provide their customers with products based on previous shopping choices, or their age, gender, instore purchases and even social media preferences. Using data to predict consumer behavior and trends that are likely to dominate retailers’ next quarter sales requires data analysis from thousands of customers, across all platforms gathered over a period of several years. Manufacturers are developing leaner, more efficient processes by reducing waste and improving the quality and yield of their products by analyzing data from the production lines, whilst vast amounts of data is needed to enable the era of 3D printing. Delivering a granular approach to diagnosing and correcting processing flaws, advance analytics offers a competitive edge to businesses willing to digest the useable data that is being produced.


A data center capable of computing modern enterprise problems

Your typical data center is a generic concept and standard architecture which has been built for dealing with lots of small problems in series; serving a web page or a file, for example. However, the modern enterprise computing problems mentioned above look a lot like the supercomputing problems academia and research have been facing for some time.

For example, working out predictive models for consumer behavior based on a complex set of data to deliver a customer experience in real time? That’s a supercomputer problem. Working out the mechanical dynamics of a car crash to support the design of a new chassis to reduce the risk of injury in a collision? That’s a supercomputer problem.

To deliver this, the set-up of today’s data center is outmoded. There is a growing need for HPC capabilities to enter mainstream data center facilities.

High Performance Computers simply aggregate computing power in a way not typically associated with standard server infrastructure. It requires denser banks of computer resource to minimize latency and increase capacity, whilst minimizing floorspace. In a data center, optimizing for this will happen by redesigning server racks, for example removing the need to have cooling slots between processing units. This is, of course, provided that the data center in question can provide the power and alternate cooling systems needed to support higher contiguous rack stacking, while limiting the cost for the end user.

By being able to fill the rack with more servers, footprint requirements are reduced, though more sophisticated power and cooling needs will fall in place. In tier 1 locations like London or Paris, these footprint costs can be more significant, given the costs of real-estate. Stacking racks so close together also reduces minute but critical periods of latency between servers during intense parallel processing, enhancing true supercomputing in today’s modern enterprise.

By analyzing data and using its outcomes to make informed business decisions, businesses can set themselves apart from the competition by delivering a better overall service or customer experience. This reliance on data however is not possible without the increasing use of HPC in the data center to help businesses quickly and effectively crunch their data while delivering the power and cooling needed to this new age of computing.


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