Focus on PULSE, a joint Inria-Qarnot Computing challenge aimed at recovering IT waste heat

Focus on PULSE, a joint Inria-Qarnot Computing challenge aimed at recovering IT waste heat

On October 24, Inria and Qarnot Computing, with the support of ADEME, the French agency for ecological transition, launched a new joint challenge on the valorization of computer waste heat. Called PULSE (PUshing Low-carbon Services towards the Edge), it aims to measure, understand and optimize the energy consumption of edge computing infrastructures.

Qarnot Computing is a company founded in 2010 in Montrouge in the Hauts-de-Seine region of France by Paul Benoit and Miroslav Sviezeny. It employs 70 people and offers low-carbon and sovereign high-performance computing power. The company’s strategy is based primarily on the use of IT waste heat and a distributed approach. First, it replaced radiator heaters in existing buildings with processors, performing useful tasks for third parties while allowing the heating to run. Since the use of radiators in the hot season was problematic, it then developed digital boilers that could be used all year round.

Its low-carbon infrastructure dedicated to various HPC sectors sectors (AI, Big data simulation, 3D rendering, modeling, fluid dynamics, medical research, photogrammetry) is aimed at various fields: finance, insurance, biotechnologies, retail, industry, animation and special effects studios. The servers, which enable the requested calculations to be performed, are installed in buildings or sites where the computer waste heat produced can be consumed (housing, heating networks, swimming pools, logistics warehouses), and not in conventional data centers. Unlike the latter, Qarnot does not spend energy to cool the servers, thus pooling a source of energy for two uses: intensive computing and heating, which reduces their carbon footprint.

The PULSE Challenge

This joint challenge aims to develop and promote best practices in geo-distributed hardware and software infrastructures for more environmentally friendly HPC.

Romain Rouvoy, University Professor in the Spirals project team in Lille and coordinator of the Challenge, explains:

“Our idea is to analyze which solutions are the most relevant, and which levers need to be addressed, to reduce the impact of infrastructure while maximizing the utility of their emissions.

Six Inria teams, with different but complementary skills, will be involved in this project alongside Qarnot: Avalon (Claude Bernard University (Lyon 1), Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, CNRS), Ctrl-A (Grenoble Polytechnic Institute, University of Grenoble Alpes), Spirals (University of Lille), Stack (IMT Atlantique), Storm (University of Bordeaux, CNRS, Polytechnic Institute of Bordeaux), and Topal (University of Bordeaux, CNRS, Polytechnic Institute of Bordeaux).

The four-year research project is based on two axes and six sub-projects, and will focus on an objective assessment of the different emissions of a distributed infrastructure in comparison with a centralized infrastructure, such as a data center, both during the construction and operation of this type of structure.

Romain Rouvoy comments:

“Today, we don’t really have the answers to these questions. There are competing models, with each model putting forward its arguments. So we need to establish a more formal model of the impact of these infrastructures.

Optimized geo-distributed infrastructures to reduce their carbon impact

In the second axis, the Challenge scientists will aim to optimize the execution of tasks to limit their consumption, in particular by improving their distribution, allocation and use. The efficient operation of digital boilers will be at the heart of this work.

Romain Rouvoy explains:

“Our goal here is to make the computational tasks meet the hot water requirements. All this on a fairly large scale: the same task can, for example, be distributed over several boilers.

Bruno Sportisse, CEO of Inria, concludes:

“Inventing a sustainable model for digital technology has become a real challenge. We can only achieve this by building an ecosystem of research and innovation, anchored in public policies. That’s why Inria is launching a “Digital and the Environment” program, the first major action of which is the Pulse Challenge with Qarnot computing, supported by ADEME.

Translated from Focus sur PULSE, défi commun Inria-Qarnot Computing visant à valoriser la chaleur fatale informatique