3 Ways to Improve Sustainability in High Performance Computing

Finding the answer to the world’s most pressing problems relies on a crucial capability: High Performance Computing (HPC). With HPC, complex issues that have baffled humanity for centuries are being unraveled at record speed, such as unraveling the mysteries of the universe, finding cures for disease, sequencing DNA, and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

The supercomputers that power HPC, however, increasingly require more energy to run. For example, the power consumption of the world’s fastest supercomputer rose from 7.9 MW in 2012 to 29.9 MW in 2022. It’s no wonder that a recent study commissioned by HPC operators from Dell Technologies, Intel and NVIDIA has raised the importance of sustainability to priority number two, even surpassing the price.

We applaud and support the efforts of HPC operators to improve sustainability. This means we must work collectively and continuously to manage HPC power requirements in areas where we can have a measurable impact. There are three ways to do this:

  1. Maximize hardware energy efficiency
  2. Consolidate infrastructure
  3. Use renewable energy sources

Implementation of energy-saving hardware

Hyperion Research’s study identified three geo-specific reasons for the increased priority of sustainability in HPC implementations. These motivations help shape geo-specific conversations about sustainability. As shown in the following figure,

  • THEAsia-Pacificregion is driven by environmental, social and governance (ESG) objectives.
  • InEuropeorganizations are concerned about rising and therefore unmanageable energy costs
  • North Americais motivated to do more with less


Universally, 60% of respondents in the study said that sustainability initiatives will impact their on-premises HPC budgets. Interestingly, half of respondents said sustainability initiatives will reduce on-premise purchasing; the other half indicated that sustainability initiatives will increase them.

For respondents who anticipate a reduction in their HPC budget, the goal is to reallocate dollars to sustainability initiatives. Dollars are shifting to purchase new energy-efficient hardware or to devote resources to optimization efforts or to change where HPC workloads run.

Dell Technologies, NVIDIA and Intel are supporting these organizational efforts. For example, Dell Technologies, a keen advocate for sustainability, has worked to reduce energy intensity across its portfolio, resulting in a76% reduction since 2013.

Infrastructure consolidation

Beyond individual hardware components, designing and implementing HPC infrastructure is a sophisticated undertaking. Ensuring that infrastructure is consolidated and configured for optimal performance is a key lever in accelerating sustainability initiatives. At Durham University, this principle is central to delivering HPC resources. Since 2001, Durham University’s Level 1 National Supercomputing Facility has been supporting scientists and researchers from around the world and using HPC to build a digital simulation of the universe, starting with the Big Bang.

During an infrastructure refresh, Dell Technologies helped Durham University optimize and modernize its infrastructure for performance improvements and greater sustainability. Results includeData backup 18x faster, 72% less energy,it’s areduction of 60 tons of CO2per year.

Use of renewable energy sources

In addition to reducing hardware energy intensity and consolidating HPC infrastructure, sustainability initiatives are also advancing with the use of renewable energy sources. A great example is that of North and BNP Paribas. When it came time to upgrade its infrastructure, BNP Paribas, a leading bank in the European Union, turned to atNorth and Dell Technologies to help it scale responsibly and build a future-proof HPC infrastructure.

BNP Paribas has moved a portion of its data center operations to the Norths facility in Iceland, an energy-efficient and cost-effective data center that runs on 100% renewable energy. As a result, BNP Paribas has lowered its total cost of ownership (TCO) with50% less energyAND85% less CO2production. Furthermore, BNP Paribas has increased energy efficiency at higher compute density, resulting in future-proof and more environmentally friendly HPC resources.

Using only renewable energy sources and reducing our carbon footprint by 85%, BNP Paribas is fulfilling its dual mission of reducing its environmental impact and better serving our clients, shared Ricardo Jantarada,Global Head of Telecom & Datacenter at BNP Paribas.

Promote environmentally sustainable HPC

HPC holds great promise for unlocking some of humanity’s most pressing and complex problems. At the same time, sustainable implementation of HPC has become a top priority, as demonstrated by research with organizations around the world. Starting today helps accelerate sustainability initiatives to create a better tomorrow for all.

Want to learn more about the incredible possibilities of HPC? Watch The Seven Wonders of the HPC World here.

Learn more about environmentally sustainable HPC solutions from Dell Technologies here.


Sponsored by Dell Technologies, Intel and NVIDIA, the Hyperion Research survey had worldwide coverage with a strong focus on international sites and sustainability issues related to HPC, artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, and HPC usage outcomes. The data was collected through face-to-face interviews and surveys of HPC and Cloud Service Provider (CSP) data center managers, directors or leads, as well as scientists, researchers and engineers.

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