Intel HPC, Corporate Responsibility, and the Cloud

By Elise Leise
In the land of fire and ice, Intel and Verne Global have partnered to provide clients with sustainable, high-performance computing

In Keflavik, Iceland, Intel, and Verne Global aim to advance the future of high-performance computing (HPC). The location is a data centre powered by renewable energy. The players are two of the world’s most capable tech and operations companies. And the time, according to Intel, is now. ‘One of Intel’s key goals is for us to be using 100% renewable energy by 2030, Chris Feltham, Technical Sales at Intel, tells me. ‘This partnership will accelerate AI and HPC technology’. 

To put this into perspective, AI and HPC can help address some of the world’s most wicked problems—from world pandemics to risk mitigation. ‘These technologies have the power to do a lot of good’, Chris tells me. ‘But they’re extremely computationally intensive. By combining them with renewable energy, we can do good while protecting the planet’. 

Intel’s Contribution

If you evaluate Intel’s portfolio of technology, from compute storage to networking, few companies match its depth and breadth. ‘Our hardware is impressive. Combined with our software, it’s completely unique’, Chris tells me. ‘That’s where the real magic starts to happen’. 

Intel’s vision, he explains, is to build the right combination of technologies for each client. Its XPU (CPU, GPU, FPGA) portfolio combined with the oneAPI initiative offers a unified programming model to help companies address specific needs; its latest, 3rd-gen Xeon Scalable processors will power the next generation of supercomputers. All in all, they’ll deliver scale and performance for compute, storage, memory, network, and security. 

Overall, Intel’s technology yields significant improvements in performance. In one example,  Apache Spark workloads ran eight times more quickly using Intel’s Optane Persistent Memory technology than without—saving time and power. In another, the Intel Distribution for Python and Intel Optimization for Tensorflow help clients deploy energy-efficient AI applications. ‘Clients who use these technologies see between ten and a hundred times better performance’, Chris says.

Why Collaborate? 

High-intensity workloads consume huge amounts of energy, which means that data centre operators—including Verne Global—use a significant amount of server infrastructure. But this partnership will combine Intel’s tech with Verne’s renewable energy model. ‘We can take these intense workloads and bring them to a location where we’re guaranteed renewable energy’, says Chris. ‘If the planet is something you care about, we help you operate with a clear conscience’. 

Efficiency is about more than just low power. It’s about understanding how much work you can achieve per unit of energy consumed. If you go significantly faster with a relatively minor increase in effort, you can return to a lower-power idle state more quickly. The Apache Spark x Intel Optane case previously mentioned is a great example of this—maximising the ratio of useful work to total energy expended. 

Also critical to managing efficiency is access to data. With Intel’s tools and technologies, data centre operators can use real-time information to adjust their operations. If you know how much energy you use for compute and cooling, how hot your facility gets, and how often you use certain equipment, you can make more informed decisions about your power policies. For example, operators might realise that they’re cooling their servers more than they need to—and that they’ll save time and money if they back off. 

Corporate Responsibility 

At each step of the way, Intel’s 2030 RISE Strategy will shape the company’s actions: 

  • Responsible. Advancing safety, wellness, and responsible business practices across its global manufacturing operations. 
  • Inclusive. Expanding opportunities for diverse leaders through technology, inclusion, and digital readiness initiatives.
  • Sustainable. Reducing environmental impact through actions and technology. 
  • Enabling. Leading positive change within Intel, across the industry, and beyond. 

How Does Cloud Play A Role? 

Near the end of our talk, Chris turns serious. ‘If you’re doing cloud for the sake of doing cloud, that’s the wrong approach’, he says. ‘Cloud isn’t a destination. It’s not a choice between public or private. Companies usually work with endless shades of complexity’. To get the best of both worlds, Verne Global offers hybrid cloud solutions for AI and HPC

Going forward, Intel will continue to combine its tech with Verne Global’s agility. ‘They’re nimble’, Chris says. ‘They’ve got a will to adopt fast and put new technologies in the hands of their customers’. As for the future? He sees no such end in sight. ‘‘As long as we can continue to help our clients operate more sustainably’, he concludes, ‘Intel and Verne Global will continue to collaborate’. 

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