The Collaborative Power of the Ecosystem Delivering Success
As an industry leader with the purpose to create world-changing technology that enriches the lives of every person on earth, Intel has been and is at the forefront of technology growth and development, catering for all business solution needs.
Through a broad ecosystem, Intel is focused on delivering an end-to-end data portfolio that stretches from the edge to the cloud, powered by artificial intelligence all while being more secure. All of this is enabled and achieved through the strong collaboration of the ecosystem mentioned. An often overlooked though integral part of the ecosystem is the Service Integrators (SI), also known as Solution Integrators, like NTT Limited, who have a global alliance with Intel, where together they solve difficult challenges and deliver business outcomes.
The role of said Service / Solution Integrators is to influence IT decisions, recommend on the architectural designs and deployment across on-premise and cloud, and ultimately deliver complete end-to-end hardware and software solutions together with the broader ecosystem of OEM & ISV partners like SAP and Cisco.
With enterprises embracing artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and big data analytics, the solutions are required to access and handle large data sets faster, which can be addressed by Intel® Optane™ Persistent Memory (PMem) which removes I/O bottlenecks to maximize CPU utilization.
Intel & SAP have collaborated to bring Intel® Optane™ Persistent Memory support to SAP HANA and Intel and the OEMs, like Cisco, have collaborated on system designs that support Intel® Optane™ Persistent Memory modules allowing for a variety of configurations to suit all customer needs.
Intel and NTT Limited have collaborated for a number of years, designing solutions that meet customer needs in industries such as enterprise, manufacturing, agriculture, automotive, financial, and more all around the world, with great success being realized when forces are combined with the greater ecosystem.
It is through insights gained while working through these relationships that Intel is able to create technologies like Intel® Software Guard Extensions (SGX). SGX enhances the last part of the data journey by securing data-in-use, enabling for example AI workloads to be performed on otherwise untapped data sources. In fact, 2nd Gen Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processors are the only mainstream data center CPU with built-in AI acceleration enabling organizations to deploy highly performant applications without using complex and expensive new hardware.
By collaborating with Intel, along with Service / System Integrators like NTT Limited and the technology ecosystem clients can feel comfortable in the knowledge that their business challenges can be addressed, delivering the best possible outcomes.
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3 ways crypto mining is impacting the data centre industry
Around the world - particularly in Russia, Eastern Europe and China - the global rise of crypto currency values has been driving an en masse industrialisation of the mining process. The trend has been bubbling away for several years, as the home mining rig has largely found itself edged out by hyperscale server farms comprising some of the largest data centres anywhere in the industry - all designed to mine crypto.
The demands placed on a facility built and run as a mining operation are somewhat different to those placed on a hyperscale cloud facility or enterprise data centre. Reliability isn’t so much of an issue; if a mine goes down for a few hours, money is lost, but your data centre won’t take half the websites in Western Europe down along with it.
On the flipside, density and cooling are much, much more important. To make a crypto mining operation profitable, you need to be harvesting more crypto currency (be it Ethereum, Dogecoin, or the perennial Bitcoin) than you’re paying for electricity by a significant margin. As a result, some of the most efficient cooling and hyper-dense rack architecture from the past few years - like two-stage liquid cooling - has originated as a crypto mining solution. Now, hyperscale cloud operators in particular are recognising the benefits of these innovations and applying them to other aspects of the data centre industry.
1. Liquid Cooling
Crypto data centres have always been as dense as possible, with their racks running at maximum capacity all day, all year round. By contrast, the average enterprise or cloud data centre isn’t necessarily running at peak capacity 24/7; workloads fluctuate with demand. However, as that demand has skyrocketed over the past year in particular, cloud and enterprise operators have looked to crypto’s preference for liquid cooling as a way to run data centres closer to the ragged edge of performance than ever before.
One example of this is LiquidStack. The Hong Kong startup makes a revolutionary two-phase liquid cooling solution for data centres, which was developed over a number of years inside Bitfury, one of the world’s leading crypto miners. “Bitfury is sharing our knowledge with the global data center community and we are excited that Microsoft and other internet giants can benefit from our years of experience and investment to best practice liquid cooling,” said Joe Capes, CEO of LiquidStack in an interview with Data Centre Magazine.
Now, LiquidStack is going mainstream, with substantiated rumours that Microsoft is looking to adopt their DataTank solutions across its ever-expanding portfolio of hyperscale cloud regions.
2. Denser HPC
One of the issues that liquid cooling solves is how to create ultra-dense server racks that can function at high temperatures. Crypto miners have been grappling with this problem for about a decade now, and the lessons they’ve learned are being happily adopted by the burgeoning data centre HPC market - which is swelling in response to greater AI adoption and increasingly-sizable data sets.
With the density that mining rigs can achieve, server architects are cramming hundreds of kilowatts into individual racks - although it should be noted that this is still relatively rare. A 2020 survey from the Uptime Institute still found that the average density of data centre racks was growing rapidly, however.
“We expect density to keep rising. Our research shows that the use of virtualization and software containers pushes IT utilization up, in turn requiring more power and cooling. With Moore’s law slowing down, improvements in IT can require more multi-core processors and, consequently, more power consumption per operation, especially if utilization is low. Even setting aside new workloads, increases in density can be regarded a long-term trend,” said the report.
In 2020, average rack densities of 20kW and higher became a reality for many data centre operator.
3. Sustainability Concerns
Now for the more worrying news. The industrial scale and massive power consumption inherent to the crypto mining business - and the negative attention that miners are now starting to receive from government - could point towards a concerning future for data centre operators in the wider industry.
Last week, the Chinese government announced that it would open an inquiry into the participation of Beijing’s largest data centre operators - which include the country’s three largest telecom firms - in crypto mining. At a time when the PRC government is attempting a significant reversal of its approach towards sustainability, the significant power draw of crypto mining activities may be one more hurdle than China cares to deal with.
The Indian government is mulling a blanket criminalisation of all crypto mining in the country and, in the US, the State of New York is also looking into tightening regulatory restrictions on the industry.
While crypto mining data centres are not the same as cloud or enterprise facilities, operators should be careful lest the ire of lawmakers be the latest trend to make its way from the crypto sector into the mainstream.