What are the hallmarks of a high-performance data center?

Posted: 23 Aug 2018

People sometimes talk about wholesale and hyperscale data centers. They talk about co-location data centers. But there is not sufficient attention today paid to the data center that is made for dense, high-performance hardware. The high-performance computer (HPC) cluster, after all, is the engine of today’s big data and AI-driven industries. The data centers that house these HPCs should also be scrutinized.

Here are five hallmarks that define the high-performance data center (HPDC) — and information about why each of these five hallmarks matter.

HPDC Characteristic #1: PUE

A data center’s power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating is effectively the multiplier that allows you to calculate that data center’s power costs. A PUE rating of 2.0 means for every euro of electricity, you pay another euro for cooling and distribution of power within the data center.

So, for instance, an HPC cluster that costs €2000 per month to run would cost a total of €4000 per month to power and cool in a data center with a PUE of 2.0. A facility with PUE of 1.2 would cost €2400 to power and cool. In a facility with PUE of 1.03 — as in the case of Advania Data Centers’ Tier 1 facility — that cost would fall to €2060.

A data center built for HPC scale and HPC density, of course, will strive for the lowest PUE rating possible. Or it will disguise its bad PUE rating and just pass the extra expenses along to the customer. Caveat emptor. If you’re paying for an HPC cluster, you need to be careful about the PUE of the HPDC in which your cluster is housed.

HPDC Characteristic #2: Rack Density

Another quality to be mindful of in today’s HPDC is its rack density. The HPDC’s cooling capabilities are going to determine how much density can be achieved in any given rack. An HPDC that can only cool its clusters to, say, racks filled to one-quarter capacity will suffer in performance — just as a CPU or GPU is itself slowed down by larger chip size. Greater rack density is, in other words, another calling card of a data center that can enable clusters to achieve their highest performance potential. While most data centers feature rack densities of about 5kW per rack, Advania Data Centers has the potential to scale up to 45kW per rack.

HPDC Characteristic #3: Predictable Power Pricing

Budgeting for your HPC cluster requires that you look four, five or six years down the line. Electricity costs are a crucial line item in an HPC budget, and it is critical to know that your budget can continue to accommodate power and cooling costs to run workloads reliably at peak capacity. This ultimately means knowing that power rates for your HPDC will not fluctuate significantly. In this sense, Advania Data Centers has a critical competitive advantage, as Iceland offers one of the most stable and reliable electric grids in the world, with inexpensive power whose prices remain stable over time.

HPDC Characteristic #4: Reliable, Renewable Energy Source

Another crucial factor for an ideal HPDC is the reliability and stability of the energy source itself. Depending on power plants whose fuel availability fluctuates over time is no way to guarantee the stability of your HPDC. And that’s not even factoring in the climate impact of a fossil-powered data center compared to a renewably-powered one. Good environmental stewardship is also good business in this case. No wonder, then, that Iceland, where 100% of electricity comes from renewable sources (primarily hydropower and geothermal), has been rated the safest location in the world for data centers. (Cushman/Wakefield Data Center Risk Index, 2016)

HPDC Characteristic #5: Facility Flexibility

The ideal HPDC provides options to segregate your workloads and storage loads by mission criticality. This enables you to save money by placing lower priority jobs and storage in Tier 1 facilities while placing only critical workloads – specifically, those that require more stringent levels of redundancy and uptime – within the more expensive Tier 3 facilities. Since ADC offers both Tier 1 and Tier 3 facilities for its customers, the flexibility to be able to split one’s workload and storage load between these varying tiers can represent a significant cost savings.

Do you agree with the above five HPDC characteristics? Do you think there are other characteristics important to an HPDC? Please let us know by contacting us today — and by telling your customers, co-workers and clients about the increasing significance in the quarters ahead of the high-performance data center.