Dec 1, 2020

Northern Data AG spins up first data centre in Frankfurt

Data Centres
colocation
Technology
hpc
Harry Menear
3 min
The facility is Northern Data’s first data centre at its Frankfurt am Main location and will form part of the company’s distributed computing cluster
The facility is Northern Data’s first data centre at its Frankfurt am Main location and will form part of the company’s distributed computing cluste...

Northern Data AG, a german blockchain and cryptocurrency-focused IT firm, has announced the launch of its first data centre in the city of Frankfurt. The facility, which commenced operations on December 1, 2020, will function as part of the company’s GPU-based Distributed Computing Cluster. 

The aim of this distributed network of GPUs is to serve as a high performance computing (HPC) platform for research and industrial applications. Northern Data’s Distributed Computing Cluster is expanding rapidly, with the recent announcement of a newly-commissioned data centre in the Netherlands city of Maastricht last week. 

Northern Data CEO, Aroosh Thillainathan, commented, “With the smooth and rapid expansion of our GPU cluster, now including our first European location, we are moving to meet the very high demand for stable, reliable and cost-efficient HPC infrastructure.” He added that, once the GPU Cluster is fully built out, it would allow Northern Data to offer a range of services in the fields of artificial intelligence, deep learning, research and rendering.”

The Maastricht facility, in combination with the new Frankfurt data centre and Northern Data’s other GPU clusters in Scandinavia and Canada, will be one of the largest of its kind upon completion and is predicted to achieve computing power of 404 Petaflops. For context, the world’s most powerful supercomputer, the Fugaku in Japan, has a total computing capacity of 415 petaflops. 

Stefan Sickenberger, COO of Northern Data, explained in a company press release that, “HPC has become an integral part of research and large parts of industry. Parallel processor systems and clusters are needed to process large volumes of data at high speed and with maximum stability. A key driver of success is lower energy consumption and high power efficiency. We are pleased to be working closely with our research partners on this project. We are particularly proud of our cooperation with the High-Performance Computing Architecture group at the Goethe University Frankfurt, which commands a great deal of expertise, especially in the area of Green IT”.

The newly-operational Frankfurt site is already the focus of several partnerships between Northern Data, the University of Frankfurt and GSI Helmholtzzentrum Darmstadt

Both the Frankfurt and Maastricht locations are being constructed with the leading-edge cooling and power systems required in order to run HPC workloads in a sustainable way. Norther Data has reportedly developed its own in-house cooling system, which can deliver PUE readings of between 1.05 and 1.04, far lower than the industry average of around 1.5. 

Thillainathan added: “In contrast to pure colocation providers, which have no influence on, for example, the load distribution of their customers and their software processing within the data center, we are able to regulate this with our management software. Among other things, we also control the cooling capacity very efficiently in terms of the required computing power, and this enables us to achieve excellent PUE values. Our customers save energy and achieve cost savings as a result. Together with our targeted selection of locations in northern regions, this allows us to offer our customers high-quality HPC solutions tailored to their needs, while remaining extremely cost-efficient at the same time.”

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Jun 6, 2021

Unlocking the next chapter of the digital revolution

Dell
servers
IT
Technology
Tim Loake
5 min
Tim Loake, Vice President, Infrastructure Solutions Group, UK at Dell Technologies highlights the importance of often-overlooked digital infrastructure

As the world retreated to a hybrid world in 2020, our reliance on technology took the spotlight. But it was the jazzy new social and video calling platforms that took the encore. Behind the scenes, our servers worked overtime, keeping us connected and maintaining the drumbeat of always-on newly digital services.  Let’s take a moment to pay our respect to the unsung technology heroes of the pandemic – the often-forgotten IT infrastructure keeping us connected come what may. After all, as we look ahead to more resilient futures, they will be playing a central role.

Servers could be likened to our plumbing – vital to well-functioning homes but rarely top of mind so long as it is functioning. Never seen, rarely heard – our servers do all the graft with little praise. But it is essential to reflect on the incremental advances in GPU and CPU power, which have paved the way for new workloads that previously were not possible. Chatbots and native language processing that provide essential customer touchpoints for businesses across the retail and banking sectors rely on powerful servers. They also keep businesses competitive and customers happy in an always-on world. 

Tim Loake, Vice President, Infrastructure Solutions Group, UK at Dell Technologies
Tim Loake, Vice President, Infrastructure Solutions Group, UK at Dell Technologies

Serving workplace transformation

But, as businesses grappled with pandemic disruptions, the focus was largely on adopting connected devices – and awe at the rapid increase in the datasphere.  As they reined in their budgets and attempted to do more with less, one aspect was perhaps overlooked—those hard working servers.

When it came to building resilience into a newly remote workforce, the initial concern was focused on the device endpoints – keeping employees productive.  Many companies did not initially consider whether they had the server infrastructure to enable the entire workforce to log in remotely at the same time. As a result, many experienced a plethora of teething problems: virtual office crashes, long waits to get on servers, and sluggish internet connectivity and application performance, often rendering the shiny new PC frustrating and useless.

Most businesses only had a few outward-facing servers that could authenticate remote workers – a vital gateway as the vector for cyber hacks and attacks increased exponentially. That’s not to mention the fact that many business applications simply weren’t designed to work with the latency required for people working from home. What businesses discovered at that moment was that their plumbing was out of date.  

Business and IT leaders quickly realised that to stay ahead of the curve in the hybrid working world, a renewed focus on building agile, adaptable, and flexible IT infrastructures was critical. More importantly, it accelerated the inevitable digital transformation that would keep them competitive in a data-driven economy. It is now abundantly clear to businesses that they need IT infrastructure to meet the demands of diverse workloads – derive intelligent insights from data, deploy applications effectively, and enhance data management and security.  

Ripe for a digital revolution

Unsurprisingly, IDC noted that there was an increase in purchases of server infrastructure to support changing workloads. However, it also forecasts this uptick will be sustainable and last beyond the pandemic. As the economy begins to reopen, business leaders are looking ahead. IT will continue to play a crucial role in 2021 and beyond – and we have already set the foundations for the digital revolution with next-generation servers. 

As we enter the zettabyte era, new innovative technologies are coming on stream, with 5G turbocharging IoT and putting edge computing to work.  Exciting new services improved day-to-day efficiencies, and the transformation of our digital society will be underpinned by resilient IT infrastructures.  By embracing the technological innovations of our next-generation servers, businesses keep pace with the coming data deluge.

The next generation of server architecture promises more power with less heat, thanks to improved, directed airflow, and direct liquid cooling, resulting in reduced operational costs and environmental impact. As we rebuild post-pandemic, manufacturers and customers alike strive to achieve ever more challenging sustainability goals. With this in mind, a focus on environmentally responsible design is imperative for the servers of tomorrow -  uniquely designed chassis for adaptive cooling and more efficient power consumption will be critical, improving energy efficiency generation over generation.

The most notable evolution is the configuration of these next-gen servers around more specific organisational needs. Unlike clunky and often unstable legacy infrastructure, the infrastructure of tomorrow will be sturdier and more modular. The next iteration is streamlined, and in this modular form, can be more easily tailored to business needs. This equates to essential cost savings as businesses only pay for what they use.  

Resolving the problem of the future, today

Tomorrow's IT challenges will focus on response times and latency as Edge and 5G technologies go mainstream. As businesses develop new and innovative services that utilise supercharged connectivity and real-time analytics, staying on top of these challenges will give them a competitive edge. For example, in the world of retail, automation will power new virtual security guards and even the slightest delay in the data relay could result in financial loss. 

Similarly, in the smart cities of tomorrow, the network must be responsive. With city-centre traffic lights controlled by an AI-powered camera that monitors pedestrians, delays in data transfers could cost the life of an elderly pedestrian who has fallen in the road. The stakes are far higher in a 5G-enabled world. As our reliance on technology deepens, the margins for error narrow, placing greater emphasis on the efficiency of those critical underpinning technologies.

Fully enabling the hybrid work model today is just a stepping-stone towards more fluid, tech-enabled lives. A work Zoom call from an automated vehicle on-route to an intelligent transport hub is a highly probable vision of our future. But it requires incredible amounts of compute and seamless data transfers to make it possible. These glossy snapshots need super servers to come to life, making that IT plumbing glisten with next-gen innovation essential. Without exemplary server architecture, we risk future tech advances and the human progression that it enables. 

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