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Choosing a renewable home for Viking, our new and improved high performance computing facility

Posted on 28 June 2023

The University has invested £2.5 million to build a new Viking facility to replace the current ageing infrastructure.

This facility is significantly bigger than the previous system and will continue to be free at the point of use to academic staff and students.  The improved capacity of the new facility will allow us to  undertake more research for the public good at the University. It is anticipated to go live at the start of September 2023. 

Viking is used to complete high performance computing tasks and supports research and teaching at the University. At least £20 million worth of research grants is associated with our current high performance compute facility located in Leeds. 

High performance computing (HPC) however consumes a lot of energy and produces a lot of heat, it is anticipated that by the end of 2023 data centres will account for 10% of all global emissions.   

The University is taking a pioneering approach to tackle this problem and will be moving our computer cluster to the EcoData Centre in Sweden later this year. 

Everything about the centre is designed to reduce their CO2 footprint, it is the world’s first data centre to be made from wood and runs on 100% renewable energy; 75% from hydropower and 25% from wind power.  

“Getting a sustainable solution was the most important factor when we were looking for a new home for our HPC facility. Historically when looking to improve our research computing service, we would look at how we could optimise the performance of our hardware and software. Now we want to maintain our service for users whilst also addressing other challenges, specifically the environmental impact of our work. This is by far the most energy-consuming IT service we offer and we hope that this can inspire other teams at York as well as in the HE sector to be bold when looking at ways to make their work more sustainable.” Dr Emma Barnes, Head of Research IT

The data centre also uses the excess heat created by computer clusters to dry wood and create pellets which are a renewable energy source. 

The decision to move to Sweden supports the University’s key principles of environmental sustainability and internationalism and the University will also be working with the centre to grow the knowledge about increased requirements for sustainability in the High Performance Computing area. 

Viking is free at the point of use for all staff members at the University to use although if you do use it in your research please acknowledge this in publications. Find out more about using Viking.