The BTDC pilot project has utilised a range of techniques, processes and equipment developed by EcoCooling (UK), part of the pan-European consortium of BTDC project members. The BTDC prototype constructed in 2019 has achieved a significantly higher Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) than typical data centres. PUE is the ratio between the total power used in a data centre and the actual useful power used by the data centre’s IT equipment. A normal data centre has a PUE between 1.6 and 2.2, which means that for every 1,000 watts (W) of power output delivered by the data centre’s IT equipment, another 600W to 1,200W are used for cooling, power conversion losses, etc. The BTDC has achieved a PUE of less than 1.1; a PUE rating of 1.0 is equivalent to a 100% efficient facility.
The success of the BTDC has been achieved by using the EcoCooling approach of direct fresh air cooling combined with a holistic approach to integrating the cooling system with the IT equipment.
“The collaboration with HIVE in the BTDC project is a great opportunity to develop a complete solution for both business need and environmental responsibility,” said Alan Beresford, MD, of EcoCooling. “The first two years of BTDC research provide the ideal platform for using holistic cooling for GPUs such as those used by HIVE in Europe.”
Tobias Ebel, Board Director, HIVE: “Our mission at HIVE is to provide HPC capacity with environmental responsibility. Our past achievements have been very good but the BTDC presents an opportunity to set new standards for this sector. We are targeting a PUE of <1.01 in the BTDC with a plan to apply this in both new projects and retrospectively incorporate these techniques and processes into our existing facilities.”
EcoCooling will work with HIVE to assist in HIVE’s plan to expand its High Performance Computing (HPC) facilities with the lowest cost of operation, rapid deployment and minimum environmental impact. HIVE currently operates Graphic Processing Unit (GPU) based facilities in Sweden and Iceland that provide transaction validation services for the Ethereum blockchain, which is a global, open-source platform for decentralised applications, and for which it receives newly minted Ether (ETH), the Ethereum network’s native cryptocurrency and a form of digital money.
These locations are preferred for two key reasons – green energy and a low cost of power. HPC is an extremely competitive sector in which the lowest total cost of operation is key to success. The market is also extremely dynamic, both in the volume of work and rapidly changing technologies.
“Large scale HPC, including for mining of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, is a growth market. This research project is designed to provide us with one of the foundations to making HIVE a more efficient and profitable operation with the lowest environmental impact,” explained Frank Holmes, Interim Executive Chairman of HIVE.
The BTDC is an Horizon2020 funded research project by the EU designed to result in an improvement in the efficiency of data centres, which consume 3% to 5% of global power. Future applications are expected to drive demand even further.
One aspect of this research is to increase the power density of the equipment racks so more GPUs can be installed per square metre, resulting in a lower real estate cost. The established solution to this is to use direct liquid cooling of servers or chips when the density exceeds 40kW per rack. It is planned to test direct fresh air cooling up to the equivalent of 70kW per rack with no refrigerants or other heat transfer chemicals.
Darcy Daubaras, CFO, HIVE: “In our market total cost of ownership is obviously a key to success. The BTDC project will give us an opportunity to develop not only the most efficient, and therefore the lowest operating cost solution to HPC, but also the most flexible. The development of infrastructure which can accommodate new compute technologies with rapid deployment will be a key outcome for HIVE.”
The BTDC is situated in Boden, Northern Sweden. All power is produced from local hydroelectric stations on the river Lulea. Being very close to the Arctic circle, the climate can support continuous cooling of data centres without the need for refrigeration.
The announcement of this collaboration between HIVE and EcoCooling as part of the BTDC is important for the HPC sector. The research should lead to unparalleled levels of efficiency in HPC which shall be applied to large scale facilities. The installation commenced in July and the project team expects to publish the first results on the BTDC website.