[Beowulf] Project Natick

John Hearns hearnsj at googlemail.com
Wed Jun 6 07:55:03 PDT 2018

Reading into this a bit more on the Microsoft site, the intention is to
power these things using renewables such as wind or tidal power.
I've never been to Orkney, but as it famously has no trees ther eis plenty
of wind I am sure...

Might make sense actually as they say for remote communities.
The cynic in me says why in the heck would a remote community NEED 12 or
more racks of servers, but this wont be for local use.
It makes sense in terms of having free cost power (OK - I know the true
cost is the construction of a wind turbine or two) and free cost cooling.
The total power is 240kW which is a respectable amount of power - not as
dense as big HPC installations these days, but pretty respectable.

One sincerely hopes that if things like this do get deployed in the ocean
then the steel module, the wind turbine and the servers are recycled at the
end of life and not just abandoned.

On 6 June 2018 at 16:34, Prentice Bisbal <pbisbal at pppl.gov> wrote:

> I heard about this on BBC World News this morning on my way into work. I
> waas going to share this here myself this morning.
> What isn't clear is how the heat is being transferred from the CPUs to the
> seawater. My best guess at the moment is that the capsule's steel walls
> conduct heat from the hot air (nitrogen gas, actually), to the seawater,
> cooling the ambient "air", and then the air is circulated just using the
> chassis fans. It's  possible there are some supplemental fans to circulate
> air around the capsule, but based on the photos of the racks being loaded
> into the capsule, it doesn't look like there'd be much room for that.  This
> would mean the processors are still air-cooled themselves.
> Has anybody seen any more details on how the cooling actually occurs
> withing the capsule?
> What is interesting is that these servers are all equipped with FPGAs:
> Payload 12 racks containing 864 standard Microsoft datacenter servers
> with FPGA acceleration and 27.6 petabytes of disk. This Natick datacenter
> is as powerful as several thousand high end consumer PCs and has enough
> storage for about 5 million movies.
> Since they are equipped with FPGAs, it doesn't sound like they're doing
> routine workloads, so this technique might not be transferable to you or
> me. I'm assuming the FPGAs will get much better performance per watt than a
> general processor, reducing the heatload in the capsule vs. doing the same
> workload with only x86 processors. Does any one know what the intended
> workload of this system is?
> On 06/06/2018 08:16 AM, John Hearns via Beowulf wrote:
> https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-44368813
> https://natick.research.microsoft.com/
> I must admit my first thoughts on hearing an item about this on Radio
> Scotland is that now that humans have laid waste to the surface of the
> Earth we are going to boil the oceans.
> My second thought is for the poor HPC engineer who will have to be
> equipped with a wetsuit and fins to do maintenance.
> Actually looks like Microsoft have very sensibly filled the thing with a
> dried nitrogen gas, which makes a lot of sense. And it is supposed to be
> maintenance free, I would imagine any degraded servers will just be
> switched off.
> Prof Ian Bitterlin says "You just end up with a warmer sea and bigger
> fish,"
> I have told the tale on here before about the town I grew up in which had
> a huge Singer factory. The factory had its own power station which
> discharged hot water into the local canal. The canal was famous for having
> foot long goldfish.
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