As we speak, Antarctic iceberg A68a is making headlines as it cruises towards South Georgia, having been of interest to scientists since its separation from the Antarctic peninsula in 2017. Undoubtedly, the North and South pole environments are ever-changing: this is partly due to natural cycles, such as the decadal ejection of bergs like A68a from the Larsen C Ice Shelf, but also influenced by unnatural global warming. The polar regions comprise large, complex ecosystems whose ecological relationships are threatened daily by climate change. Applying AI to scientific research in this field helps to uncover hidden relationships within environmental data and monitor the changing habitats of polar wildlife.
2020 was a tumultuous year, but despite the turmoil, significant progress was made in decarbonizing our global energy economy. Yes, there is a long way to go, and tens of trillions remain to be spent to accomplish this global transition – the largest effort humanity has ever collectively attempted. At the end of this year, it’s a good time to take stock, assess what was accomplished in the energy sector (with a focus on electricity), and to attempt to prognosticate what we will see in 2021.
At Verne Global, we know Iceland’s 100% renewably powered energy grid is an ideal choice for the high performance computing and AI technologies driving today’s data center demand. Abundant, scalable power, is delivered by one of the world’s most modern grids. Iceland is also at the forefront of geothermal energy development by continuing to push boundaries in how its energy is extracted and used.
In early October, the three agencies charged with overseeing and coordinating California’s electric grid provided a preliminary report to Governor Newsom on the causes of the electric blackouts of August 14th and 15th.
These blackouts were not the result of sudden and unexpected faults. Rather, they were preemptive rotating power outages launched by California’s grid operator in order to avoid a much larger and potentially system-wide problem. On August 14th, the early evening blackout lasted as long as 150 minutes and affected 492,000 customers. The following evening’s event left 321,000 customers without power for as long as 90 minutes.
In 2020, medical research is more important than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic has opened eyes to the flaws of our global public health mechanisms and demonstrated the need for earlier, faster diagnosis - especially in the case of infectious diseases. The opportunities for AI within healthcare are infinite, enabling drug discovery, management of medical data, clinical trialling and more. AI is being deployed in thousands of medical initiatives, each that vary in approach and focus. Wider integration of these developments into the healthcare model could optimise the system and ultimately save lives. I’ve been looking into a variety of AI startups powering healthcare and discovering their ability to transform the pace, accuracy and success with which we conduct medical research in today’s world.
I recently had the pleasure of presenting to a team from Dell Technologies talking about high performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence (AI) workloads within enterprise organizations. The scale and complexity of HPC is growing tremendously. Even with a predicted slowdown for 2020, analyst firm Intersect 360 is still anticipating the market to grow to $55B by 2024.
Over 90% of the world’s data is transmitted around the globe by submarine fibre optic cables. Over 400 of these cables sprawl across our planet’s ocean floors, often hundreds or even thousands of miles long. There are over 1.2 million kilometres of subsea cables currently in service, ensuring that nearly every square metre on our planet is ‘connected’.
One of the unexpected silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic has been recognition of the role data centres have played in keeping our communities functioning during global lockdowns. Organisations scrambled to get their employees up and running in a work from home environment. Sadly, many realised their data center infrastructure was not up to the challenge.
Many businesses are recognising the potential and importance of colocation data centre facilities. Prior to the pandemic, colocation was a key – often growing – element in their overall IT operations; complementing or even replacing on-premise data center facilities and cloud-based services alike. In the last six months, the major hyperscalers - who have their own vast facilities - have turned to colocation facilities to quickly ramp capacity needs as the world turned online practically overnight.
Would a robot suit the role of a personal stylist? Whilst the latest vogue changes each month, the fashion industry wreaks environmental havoc. It's a huge culprit of overproduction, making it the 2nd largest water polluter in the world and also responsible for 300 million tonnes of waste each year. As ever, technology has an answer to this dilemma. Developing AI promises a brighter future for the fashion industry: one of invariably popular clothing lines and a personalised customer experience. Already, the current political climate has seen shoppers becoming more eco-conscious, and naturally, clothing brands are responding to this marketing incentive with environmentally-friendly changes. A new system, empowered by technology, could change fashion’s sustainability game for good... and all without being at the expense of a nice outfit.
As with all tradeshow events this year, ISC High Performance 2020 took on a very different look and feel. Overall, the event received high praise for adapting to a virtual environment, and the news coinciding with the event continued to generate headlines. One of the more interesting announcements was from NVIDIA and Mercedes Benz launching software-defined, intelligent vehicles using end-to-end NVIDIA technology.
In April of this year, Google announced that it is taking the next step in making its data centers greener and cleaner. The company indicates that it has been carbon-neutral since 2007, and it has covered its energy consumption with 100% renewables since 2017.
Many large corporations have undertaken similar commitments, covering the equivalent of their total electricity use with renewable energy from Power Purchase Agreements (PPSa). These PPAs match their total electricity consumption to the output of a new “additional” renewable facility built on their behalf. However, only the total volumes match, not the actual physical flows of power. For example, if a company were to offset its 100 megawatthours (MWh) of consumption with 100 MWh produced by a solar facility, then at times unused surplus solar would be sold into the market while at other moments (nights, for example) the company would be buying system power from the grid at whatever carbon intensity the grid was offering at that moment.
Clear canals in Venice and blue skies in Delhi: around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown is cleansing our planet of its usual levels of pollution and bringing us instead time to appreciate nature closeby. Thanks to new restrictions’ severe limitations on travel and industrial activity, our daily carbon emissions are seen to have fallen by 17% during the peak of confinement measures in early April, when compared to that of mean levels seen in 2019. Though these statistics bear a false sense of security, we must avoid being distracted from the pressing circumstances of today’s environmental crisis in which wider changes need to be made. As elements of lockdown ease and we prepare for a return to ‘business as usual’, the pressure to revive the economy risks accelerating at the expense of positive change made so far. Making green decisions remains as, if not more crucial. Environmental accountability is an essential selling point for any business or organisation in the modern-day, and a field Verne Global is committed to.
NVIDIA’s GTC going virtual in February was the main attraction for the rest of the HPC show industry. My industry event calendar has been replaced by an endless stream of Zoom-like briefings and webinars. Three months after Covid-19 disrupted the HPC industry some patterns are emerging. Businesses with a remote working, gaming, telemedicine, home delivery or drug discovery component are booming. My neighbor sells a cloud-based telemedicine solution and he’s been glued in his home office twelve hours a day, 6 days a week attempting to keep abreast of the demand.