Skip to main content

Big Green

With the twin growth of supercomputing demand on the one hand and energy cost on the other, it makes sense for companies to produce supercomputers that use less power. IBM started the trend with the Blue Gene series, of course, although that project was nore about building the fastest computer while keeping energy consumption somewhat reasonable. More recently, others have joined the fold. One such is SiCortex, who claim to have designed their systems from the chip level up to minimise power consumption. Their SC5832 machine offers 5832 1GFlops 64-bit processors for 20kW, while for the SC648 they claim half a teraflop powered from a standard wall socket.

That's not the only approach, of course. Floating-point accelerator boards and Graphics Processing Units are being used to boost computing power for specific applications while keeping costs low. The Register has a good overview article from November's SuperComputing conference. Meanwhile, in a talk at the Mardi Gras Conference last week, Satoshi Matsuoka explained how the Japanese are building a specialist supercompuiting facility that combines all these elements to maximise computing power and minimise energy usage. His slides are here (8.3MB). Incidentally, they also show an example of how to design machine room to make efficient use of air cooling, rather than the all-too-common practice of sticking a load of machines in a giant airconditioned room.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Presentation: Putting IT all together

This is a presentation I gave to an audience of University staff: 

In this seminar, I invite you to consider what the University’s online services would be like, if we worked together to design them from the perspective of the student or member of staff who will use them, instead of designing them around the organisational units that provide them. I’ll start with how the services might appear to that student or member of staff, then work back from there to show what this implies for how we work, how we manage our data, and how we integrate our IT systems. It might even lead to changes in our organisational structure.

Our online services make a vital and valued contribution to the work of our students and staff. I argue that with better integration, more consistent user interfaces, and shared data, this contribution could be significantly enhanced.

This practice is called “Enterprise Architecture”. I’ll describe how it consults multiple organisational units and defines a framework …

Not so simple...

A common approach to explaining the benefits of Enterprise Architecture is to draw two diagrams: one that shows a complicated mess of interconnections, and one that shows a nicely layered set of blocks. Something like this one, which came from some consultants:


I've never felt entirely happy with this approach.  Yes, we do want to remove as much of the needless complexity and ad-hoc design that litters the existing architecture.  Yes, we do want to simplify the architecture and make it more consistent and intelligible.  But the simplicity of the block diagram shown here is unobtainable in the vast majority of real enterprises.  We have a mixture of in-house development and different third-party systems, some hosted in-house, some on cloud infrastructure and some accessed as software-as-a-service.  For all the talk of standards, vendors use different authentication systems, different integration systems, and different user interfaces.

So the simple block diagram is, basically, a l…

2016 has been a good year

So much has happened over the last year with our Enterprise Architecture practice that it's hard to write a succinct summary.  For my day-to-day experience as enterprise architect, the biggest change is that I now have a team to work with.  This time last year, I was in the middle of a 12-month secondment to create the EA practice, working mainly on my own.  Now my post has been made permanent and I have recruited two members of staff to help meet the University's architectural needs.

I have spent a lot of the year meeting people, listening to their concerns and explaining how architecture can help them.  This communication remains vital, the absolute core of what we do and we will continue to meet people in this way.  We also talk to people in other Universities in order to learn from what they are doing and to share our own experience back.  A highlight in this regard was my trip to the USA last January.

Our biggest deliverable for the past year was the design of the data wa…