Date: 21 November 2016 16:34
The rise of high-performance computing (HPC) responds to the ever-increasing demand for more efficient and powerful processing devices to help solve some of the world’s greatest problems.
This is where we come in – to enable our computational biology research, our scientists need to process an enormous amount of biological data facilitated by HPC.
A 4300% growth in annual data generation by 2020 is predicted. With such a considerable increase in data, the problems of energy efficiency, high expectancy and the rising cost of compute resources will only become more pressing.
EI and the HPC hardware provider Optalysys joined forces to introduce the ground-breaking optical processing device GENESYS to perform large-scale DNA sequence searches for crucial genomics research powered by just a mains supply, and aims to be one of the top 50 fastest processing devices in the world by 2017.
Some of the largest high-performance computers cost millions of dollars so they are not cheap. Performance and scale are typically the main drivers for HPC; the trade-off is usually more cost for better speed and scale. This is where optical computing is hoping to break the trend.
HPC systems collectively consume up to 130KW of power, including mechanically removing heat. Powered by optical light, GENESYS is expected to reduce our energy consumption by over 95% - significantly reducing the environmental impact of running traditional HPC.
HPC systems consume vast amounts of power and generate significant heat e.g. the world's fastest supercomputer the Tianhe-2 uses 24MW of power and costs $21m/year to run. A comparable optical ‘supercomputer’ based on Optalysys technology will run from a standard mains supply, consuming, at least, four orders of magnitude less power.
A EI Benchmark BLAST search on a single HPC node takes 28 hrs with a measured energy footprint of 11.2 kWh (including cooling). From this, with the optical processor, it is estimated that an annual cost saving will be over £40k.