[Beowulf] re: power prediction and planning

Mark Hahn hahn at mcmaster.ca
Mon Oct 5 00:14:42 PDT 2009

in reference to recent mention of TDP and power planning,
what do you think the trend in the next few years will be?

5 years ago, people were talking about exponential increases 
in power and power density - afaikt with straight faces.
that clearly didn't happen.  in fact, dissipation has clearly
gone down (on a per-node basis - power per flop has gone through
the floor!).

I'm looking at current nodes and seeing substantial benefits to
improvements in cpu power, lower voltage/power ram, more sensible
chipsets, more efficient power supplies.  we have a lot of nodes
bought ~4 years ago - dual-socket HP DL145G2's.  cpu power was 
around 100W/socket, and I suspect PSUs were probably ~80% efficient.
now it would be hard to miss 92-93% efficient PSUs and CPUs
in the 60-80W range.  I'd be surprised if support chips haven't 
improved as well.  I know even disks are dissipating a lot less,
even though they never were a large component.

I've even seen some vendors brag about how their fans are more 
efficient (which resonates with me because when a DL145G2 gets warm,
the ten (10) fans ramp up dissipate noticably more power, 
which doesn't help the room temperature at all...)

I'm also not really talking about heat density - I generally assume
that we'll get an average of 2 nodes per 1U - ~80/rack.

Intel seems to be agressively pushing fab tech as well - .32 nm is 
due this year, and they claim significant speed/power advances.

SO: do you expect pretty much constant per-node dissipation? 
if higher, why?  if lower, savings due to what?

we've planned with 300W/node for a long time, but current nodes are
noticably cooler than that.  I imagine next-gen nodes will be lower 
power, not higher, unless something else changes (4 socket becomes 
common, or every node needs a Fermi or Larrabee card...)

also, does anyone have thoughts about machineroom features that 
would support multiple generations, preferably without a lot of reno?
for instance, we have mostly L6-30 power, which seems reasonably safe 
for commodity systems.  but how about rack-back water cooling systems? 
what are the chances of getting multiple generations out of that 
(at least the heat-rejection part, if not the pipes or server-side 
heat-exchangers.)  is anyone working on commodity-ish systems 
with water/coolant going to each node?  (that is, skip or minimize 
the use of air)

thanks, mark hahn.

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