Improvements in HPC Energy Performance

HPCThe ability of high performance computers (HPCs) to solve complex applications very quickly has risen exponentially since their introduction in the 1960s; unfortunately, so has their electricity use. Many supercomputers require more than a megawatt of electricity to operate, and annual electricity costs can easily run into millions of dollars. As the use of HPCs became more widespread, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) saw the need to improve energy efficiency of supercomputers and the infrastructures that support them.

Berkeley Lab researchers organized the Energy Efficient High Performance Computing Working Group (EE HPC WG) in 2008 to promote energy-efficient computing best practices and to drive improvements in energy performance of HPC systems. At the time, the concept of energy-efficient computing was often a distant afterthought in the race to improve supercomputer computational performance as quickly as possible.

“We were convinced that bringing U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories together to demand more efficient supercomputers would bring the issue to the forefront for supercomputer developers and vendors,” says Bill Tschudi, leader of the High Tech and Industrial Systems Group at Berkeley Lab. “As a significant segment of the HPC market, the national labs were interested not only in spurring more efficient designs and equipment, but also in reducing their own energy bills—costs that were siphoning money from their mission.”

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