The Kelvin Living Lab: Towards Net Zero High-Performance Computing

The purpose of the Kelvin Living Lab is to evaluate options which reduce the carbon emissions of the Kelvin-2 high-performance computing (HPC) to zero or negative. This will be achieved by improving efficiency, and implementing scheduling and complementary technologies. HPC is a large electricity consumer and has a commensurate cooling requirement which can significantly increase power consumption. Therefore, targeting the processing efficiency and waste heat offers the greatest opportunity to decarbonise. We aim to improve the sustainability of HPC through a multi-pronged approach:

1. Analysing and deploying software and hardware to improve utilisation and energy-efficiency of the infrastructure

In the last two decades, various research has proposed ways to improve energy-efficiency of HPC systems, such as efficient scheduling of parallel applications, dynamic parallelism control and dynamic voltage and frequency scaling, including research by the PI and de Supinski, e.g., EP/M01147X/1, EP/L000555/1 and EP/M015742/1. However, these techniques have not transitioned from research to practise due to unknown risks on the service. Our goal is to re-evaluate and adjust such techniques on an isolated slice of the Kelvin-2 system. Additionally, we will explore alternative node architectures as different node architectures may present better energy-efficiency for specific applications. We will moreover investigate if we can leverage dynamic voltage and frequency scaling to help maintain the electrical utility grid’s stability, as renewable energy sources reduce the grid’s ability to counter dynamic stability problems, which limits their adoption. Based on expertise in time-synchronised instrumentation (OpenPMU), we will explore adaptation of power consumption of HPC infrastructures in real time to counter electrical grid frequency fluctuations.

2. User engagement with sustainability

It is an open question for HPC centres how to incentivise users to execute jobs sustainably. We can however inform users on the environmental impact of their jobs, e.g., through reporting energy and carbon usage. The missing links are operational policies and scheduling algorithms that prioritise jobs with environmental impact in mind. This requires a fair charging scheme that reflects on the optimality of the time-vs-energy trade-off of executing jobs (avoiding penalising large energy-efficient jobs because of their size).

3. Operations for Net zero HPC

Utilising renewable sources can reduce the emissions associated with data processing significantly. By integrating HPC with other technologies which utilise the waste heat to capture or reduce the emissions of other processes they can be truly net zero. Using temperature data we will investigate various options for thermal enabled decarbonisation such as evaluation of novel direct air carbon capture (DAC) and co-location with heat consumers.

We will maximise the impact of this project through knowledge sharing with other HPC facilities and stakeholders, which will be supported through collaborations with Northern Ireland HPC, the eFutures 3.0 network on electronics, and industry partners Dell Technologies, AlcesFlight and Northern Ireland Electricity Networks.

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