Dennard, Carbon, and Moore: Technology Trends Shaping Future Investment in Scientific Computing Equipment

Mark Dietrich; Andrew A Chien. 25 May, 2022.
Communicated by Andrew Chien.


Stable technology trends have shaped the trajectory of scientific computing equipment investment for decades, creating patterns of equipment purchase, lifetime, and use. In recent years, changes in the rate of computing improvement, power density, and computing density, and total cost of ownership (TCO). Creating a net-present-value (NPV) model for computing resources, we reconsider traditional investment patterns for scientific computing equipment that supports discovery science and higher education. We assume the goal of investment is to maximize the delivered computational capability of a computing center or a fleet of systems, and explore a range of technology evolution scenarios, finding optimized strategies for each. The major conclusions include:

- Continued performance improvement drives replacement cycles similar to historical patterns (4-7 years). This was counter to our expectations and reflects the continuing attraction of future systems based on improving technology. The future system economics and capabilities are too compelling to slow down.

- Growing power consumption of SCE systems is a challenge if we are to sustain growth in computing capability. This power consumption presents challenges in growing operational cost, carbon impact, and facilities requirements. These challenges may require changes in academic computing and NSF program strategies.

- Fueled by continuing compute density improvements and advanced cooling systems (e.g., water, immersion), the datacenter space requirements for SCE do not increase dramatically. This was also counter to our initial expectations.

- The growing power consumption of SCE systems drives an increasing Scope 2 (direct CO2 emissions) impact. This motivates new approaches that increase the ability to use low-carbon (and low-cost) power, as electricity cost becomes an increasing fraction of TCO. Fortunately, total carbon emissions from power, and quantity of power consumed, can be decoupled using renewable power, and adopting green siting for systems. Such a strategy is an attractive approach for the future.

Original Document

The original document is available in PDF (uploaded 25 May, 2022 by Andrew Chien).