By: Michael Feldman
Verne Global, a UK company offering Icelandic-based green datacenter services, has launched a bare metal HPC cloud offering.
Known as hpcDIRECT, the service offer customers the ability to rent HPC hardware deployed in Verne Global’s datacenter complex located in Keflavik, Iceland. The clusters are equipped with Intel Xeon Scalable processors (“Skylake”), along with Mellanox InfiniBand and Ethernet networks. Different storage options are available as well. The company says it can support “petaflops of compute,” and is suitable for typical HPC applications such as computer-aided engineering, genomic sequencing, molecular modeling, and machine learning.
“Building hpcDIRECT was a direct response to overwhelming demand from our customers and tightly correlated with the market’s desire to move from a CapEx to an OpEx model for high performance computing,” said Dominic Ward, Managing Director at Verne Global. “With hpcDIRECT, we take the complexity and capital costs out of scaling HPC and bring greater accessibility and more agility in terms of how IT architects plan and schedule their workloads.”
Up until now, Verne Global offered primarily colocation services, where customers would install their own gear in the company’s Keflavik datacenters. The advantage of doing so was a result of the low cost and environmental friendliness of Icelandic energy. Thanks to the island’s abundant geothermal and hydroelectric resources, the company is able to power its facilities using 100 percent renewable energy. Moreover, the cost of that energy is much more stable than those based on non-renewable resources. In addition, due to the cold North Atlantic climate, cooling can be supplied for free, year-round, using ambient air – no need for chillers or compressors.
The result is that the energy needed to power and cool the datacenter infrastructure can be had for a fraction of the price of what would be charged in most areas of Europe and North America. One customer, Earlham Institute, estimated it was able to save 70 percent on energy costs when it ran its wheat genomics computations in Verne’s facilities. Given that power is typically 30 to 50 percent of the cost of operating a datacenter, those savings can be substantial.
Presumably this will enable the company to offer very competitive pricing on its hpcDIRECT clusters. That’s not to say the big public cloud providers like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft also don’t take advantage of locating their datacenters near cheaper energy sources – they do. But Iceland’s combination of cheap, renewable energy and free cooling is unique.
A number of beta customers have been trying out the new service over the past few months. Apparently, the first beta customer to finish their trial has already signed up as a paying client. Pricing has not been made public, but interested parties can obtain a quote through the company’s website.