Data centers require large amounts of energy. In the joint project NAAICE (network-attached accelerators for energy-efficient heterogeneous computing), which started in September 2022, the Fraunhofer Heinrich-Hertz-Institut (HHI) is concerned with increasing the energy efficiency of HPC data centers. To do so, the researchers employ the Network-Attached Accelerators (NAA) technology developed at the institute. It allows offloading recurring computationally intensive special operations to adapted hardware, thus achieving substantial energy savings while maintaining the same or improved computing performance. NAAICE will run for a total of three years until September 2025. The project is funded with 1.7 million euros by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the "GreenHPC" funding guideline. Fraunhofer HHI will receive a share of 468,000 euros from the overall budget.

High Performance Computing (HPC) is one of the fundamental research methods in many scientific disciplines. It is applied, for instance, in climate modeling, astrophysics or biology. HPC requires high computing power and correspondingly large amounts of energy.

In order to make HPC applications more sustainable, the NAAICE team focuses on an increasingly efficient use of the capacities in HPC data centers. Conventional data centers possess a so-called homogeneous system architecture. This means that all computers in service are built on the same standard components and can be utilized for various types of workloads. HPC applications usually utilize only specific parts of a standard computer. By consequence, significant capacity gets lost within the system architecture.

By contrast, the NAAICE project intends to develop a heterogeneous system architecture in which computers are flexibly equipped for specific applications. To achieve this, the team deploys integrated circuits known as field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). FPGAs differ from conventional circuits to the extent that they can be continuously provisioned with new functions and are likewise profoundly flexible.

The novel concept of the Network-Attached Accelerator (NAA) - based on FPGAs - depicts the project's core technology. NAA has been developed by the Embedded Systems group in the Video Communication and Applications department at Fraunhofer HHI. In opposition to previous concepts of integrating FPGAs in data centers, NAAs are decoupled from the tight connection to server processors, thus becoming dynamically deployable and directly connectable via the network infrastructure. Ultimately, they offer more flexibility and lower energy consumption due to improved capacity utilization.

Currently, the NAAICE project team is developing software to integrate NAAs into HPC data centers, among other things. In doing so, the partners are going to adapt the specific middleware and runtime environments. Moreover, the resource management system (RMS) forms a critical component, especially concerning the energy monitoring of the data centers.

In addition to Fraunhofer HHI, the University of Potsdam, the Zuse Institute Berlin, the GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam and PERFACCT GmbH are involved in the project. The results will be made available as open-source hard- and software toward the end of the project.

link to project page