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What is sustainability in HPC?

Alces Flight is about to launch their first ever in-person event for the UK. Our topic: What sustainability means for supercomputing.

The field of supercomputing is changing — in a good way. Once concerned primarily with speed and scale, a new word is popping up right alongside any conversation around HPC: “Sustainability.”

You can call it the “Green Computing” movement, or perhaps “Eco-HPC.” With the rise in demand for supercomputing (prompted, in part, by public cloud and AI/ML) and the recent launch of exascale machines, our community is looking ahead and realising that in order to continue to solve large, complex problems we shouldn’t be creating ones in our wake.

But what is sustainability? If you look it up in the dictionary there are two general definitions:

  1. The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.
  2. Avoiding the depletion of a natural resource.

Most of the community will, quite rightly, think of energy and power consumption when thinking about sustainability in HPC. Quite rightly, too. In a study carried out by the University of Edinburgh they deduced that of the listing of Top 500 supercomputers from 2022 about 3 billion kilowatts of energy was consumed to run them. (For comparison an average UK household would consume 2,900 kilowatts.) With larger machines planned, and demand for even more on the rise, the community is looking to find new and novel solutions to optimise (and revolutionise) how machines consume the energy provided to them.

But there is so much more than just that. From the hardware we utilise, the data centre it lives in, to the software we run, the people running the systems, to the new technology coming down the pipeline — there are many factors in building and maintaining long-term, stable, ecologically sound High Performance Computing systems.

The team at Alces Flight already has plans underway to tackle the many different aspects of sustainability in supercomputing — and we want the UK HPC community to join in on the conversation. This is why we are hosting our first-ever in-person event called, “Sustainable Reality.” Hosted at the National Space Centre on September 25th, we are bringing in eight speakers from the UK/EU community covering:

  • Renewable Energy Computing
  • Fostering the Next Generation of HPC Talent
  • Optimising Software
  • Incoming Technology and Ideas in HPC

This event is 100% free to attend and spaces are limited. To register, head to our events page.

We look forward to welcoming the supercomputing community to our day event and sharing what we’ve learned with our global allies. See you at the Space Centre!

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