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Not All Heroes Wear Capes…

I found myself thinking about the amount of time that we spend on the web nowadays. Almost all our jobs involve spending hours on the internet, corresponding with remote team members or customers, creating marketing campaigns, building websites and apps… And in our free time we indulge in long social media breaks, FaceTime conversations or stream movies on Netflix with our phones.

For all of this to happen and our devices to connect and function on the internet we need some special computers called servers and we need power to make them work, too. Servers let us enjoy the internet from the comfort of our screens but also can run the code to build a website, store data and let us do other amazing things! For example they allow us to run hydro simulations to make sure that dams run properly in an under-the-sea-level country like the Netherlands, but also calculate chances of Tsunamis in Japan and they find their use in the med tech industry and biology labs as well, for example in the case of protein folding or HIV and cancer medicine research.

Usually servers are collected in buildings called data centers, which can range from a small room with a few machines to humongous farms with over 150k square meters of surface. There are approximately 9 million of these data centers across the globe, out of which almost 400 are hyper scale, in total taking up to almost 836 square kilometers of space, an area bigger than New York City.

For us to be able to be connected and computing at all times on both sides of the equator, these data centers have their servers working full time, every day of the year, thus using about 10% of all the power utilized by the United States’ Government. Well, that’s also because if the internet were to go down even just for a handful of minutes, companies would lose billions of dollars (an estimate calculates $5,600 of loss per minute of IT downtime)!

Imagine now the amount of energy used by the people working for the data centers to commute every day, the power needed to make the servers work and to keep the data centers up and running and sum it all up. Huge, right? Yet, the problem is another.

You are probably familiar with the heat that your laptop generates and radiates on your legs when you’re overworking in bed on your out-of-office day. Now picture the heat that all the servers in a data center can produce. In most data center aisles, the servers cause the temperature to be around 27 to 46 celsius degrees. The ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers) recommends a temperature in between 18 and 27 celsius for servers to operate in. The difference between the actual and needed temperature can then be quite dramatic and needs to be taken care of to avoid putting the servers’ operability at stake. Well, for a computer to work you need a ventilation system and for a data center to function you need air conditioning. Which means that those aforementioned 836 square kilometers need to be cooled down constantly, causing further pollution at an impressive degree. In fact, the energy to cool down the data centers is even more than the needed amount to make the servers function!

Data centers now utilize over 3% of the global electricity supply, not to mention that their greenhouse gas emissions account for approximately 2% worldwide, placing them in the same carbon footprint area as the airline industry.

Our internet consumption is constantly on the rise, having become some sort of pleasurable addiction for the average millennial and a crucial tool for scientific progress, both in terms of research and simulations, but this brings to an issue. If some companies are now trying to use renewable sources of energy to bring power to their servers and allow us to connect to the Internet of Things in a less guilty way, what about all the energy that is dissipated trying to cool those servers down? Some options are starting to emerge in the market yet all with some considerable downsides. Placing servers under the sea, like Microsoft did with Project Natick, might reveal itself to be problematic in case of need of maintenance. Not just that, it would not reutilize the generated heat but just dissipate it in sea water. We at Nerdalize are offering a very clear and convenient solution, because we don’t believe in zero sum games.

Why build a data center if you can put servers in people’s homes and re-utilize the energy used for the computations to heat up their water? That’s why at Nerdalize we have built a heating device based on computer servers. Instead of heating up data centers, we heat up water to 55 celsius degrees. One of our server-heaters can supply 80% of the needed heating for a household of four. This lets us save up 2 tons of CO2 per home per year and the benefits are not just for the environment! The Dutch citizens hosting our servers in their homes get cheaper energy, saving approximately €200 per year on heating. The lack of need for physical space to contain our servers is one of the factors impacting our cost structure, allowing us to offer a cloud service, for simulating water levels or folding proteins, at a price that is 40% lower than our competitors’ with no compromise on performance. Not all heroes wear capes, but they sure do all care about the planet!

About our sustainability
Elena Galli
posted this October 8

Fast video transcoding with FFmpeg in the cloud

Video processing and especially transcoding are quite CPU-intensive tasks. That’s why doing it in the cloud is great. Not only can you easily use a large number of CPUs to make your conversions go faster and to run many side-by-side, you’ll also have your computer free to do other work. And by running it on the Nerdalize cloud you’ll be able to do so affordably, while heating someone’s shower and saving CO2 at the same time.

FFmpeg logo

FFmpeg is a great tool for video processing, but like many applications it’s usually quite a hassle to run it in the cloud. To make scaling to the cloud easy we’ve made it super-straightforward to run FFmpeg on Nerdalize. Using our FFmpeg Docker image and Nerd, our easy-to-use CLI, you can transcode any video file from your computer in the cloud using just two commands:

$ nerd job run \
	--input=~/my-video-files:/input \
	--output=ffmpeg-output:/output \
	--memory=3 --vcpu=2 \
	nerdalize/ffmpeg -i input.mp4 output.avi
$ nerd dataset download ffmpeg-output ~/my-transcoded-video-files
Submitted job: 'ffmpeg-run'
To see whats happening, use: 'nerd job list'

Downloading (Step 1/2): 972.80 KB / 972.80 KB [=======] 100.00% 0s
Unarchiving (Step 2/2): 972.80 KB / 972.80 KB [=======] 100.00% 0s
Downloaded 1 dataset

Of course it’s not just limited to converting MP4 files to a AVI. You can use the full FFmpeg featureset like creating optimized videos at different resolutions and bitrates, various other compression options for video and audio, creating thumbnails, etc. In fact, you can use FFmpeg just like you’re used to by passing any of the normal FFmpeg arguments. We had some fun with it in our example job.

A screenshot of our example image

Try FFmpeg yourself for free

We’ve created a short guide to get started with running your FFmpeg jobs on the Nerdalize cloud. By registering, you’ll get free cores so you can process your own videos right away, or try it out with our example video.

About our cloudsoftware
Alexander Weiss
posted this September 19

Network to the Home with the speed of light!

Building a datacenterless cloud is quite the challenge. To illustrate, Microsoft researched heating homes with servers in their Datafurnace Project but (among other things) ran into the issue of the low average bandwidth in the US.

At Nerdalize we’ve always believed we can offer datacenter-grade cloud, including low latencies, without actually building a datacenter. We’re now at the point where we actually have 10 Gb/s connections to the homes our servers heat. Nerdy enough to want to learn more? Let me explain our network setup to you!

10 Gb/s and sub-millisecond latency

Luckily around 1/3rd of the homes in Netherlands have Fiber-to-the-home (FttH). Nerdalize has built a network, reusing much of this existing FttH infrastructure. By deploying our own network equipment and uplinks to the neighbourhood, we were able to set up a datacenter-grade network over existing fiber, with 10 Gb/s bandwidth to each household and at a latency between 0.15ms and 0.20ms.

Our network

And since all homes are equipped with two physically separated fibers, homeowners’ and cloud customers’ traffic can also be completely separated.

A datacenter-grade network allows our customers to run a wide variety of processes on our servers. We want to offer the same or better performance as any cloud provider, but in a more sustainable and affordable fashion!

The best part? We don’t charge you network costs. Ingress and egress are free under a fair use policy. Try it for yourself! Create a free trial account and check out how fast your application can run outside of a datacenter.

About our cloud
Maaike Stoops
posted this July 26

Start heating homes with your Kubernetes!

Last month we gave an exciting talk at KubeCon about how we use Kubernetes to heat the Netherlands. We’re happy to share that you can now also run your Kubernetes clusters at Nerdalize!

Our Kubernetes offering is now in public beta for you to use. Create your next Kubernetes cluster in the Nerdalize portal and start heating homes with your pods.

These affordable clusters come with some great features:

Kubernetes support out-of-the-box

Heat homes with your private Kubernetes clusters.

Freely scale between 1 and 80 vCPUs

Flexibility to choose a cluster that fits your scale at the press of a button.

More affordable than the rest

With € 0.026 per vCPU hour we’re cheaper than other providers. Check our full pricing here.

Multi-cloud dashboard included

We offer a multi-cloud dashboard, so you can use other providers or your on-premise cluster as well.

If you register for an account you’ll get free access to 8 vCPU to try out in our Playground cluster.

Do you need more capacity? Add your payment details to get your own multi-cloud dashboard and start using Kubernetes at Nerdalize or other cloud providers or try our easy-to-use Nerd tool.

Multi-cloud Dashboard
Spin up Kubernetes at Nerdalize and others with our multi-cloud dashboard

About our cloudsoftware
Maaike Stoops
posted this June 11

Our new and improved Nerd CLI is here

We have some exciting news to share with you. We just released a new and completely overhauled version of our Nerd CLI!

After introducing our beta a while back we’ve received great feedback from many of our users. Taking all this input into account, both minor and major issues, we’ve revamped our Nerd CLI.

A couple of the major improvements:

  • Easy Windows installer — Get running even faster.
  • Give your jobs and datasets a name — Stop struggling with difficult identifiers.
  • One command to rule them all — Upload a dataset, start a job and get it to run in just one step.

You can find the full release notes for the second release candidate on our Github.

We’re again looking for users to try Nerd for free. When you’ve registered, download Nerd and login to start your first job by running:

  1. Login

    $ nerd login
    
  2. Run your first job

    $ nerd job run --name=co2-calc nerdalize/co2-calculator
    

If you have any feedback or questions, keep sending them over!

About our software
Maaike Stoops
posted this March 19

Running Python scripts in the cloud — Super easy!

At Nerdalize, we’re trying to make computing as easy and straightforward as possible. Last month we released a Python Docker image that allows you to run your scripts without creating a custom image. You can just upload your script, requirements.txt and data files and run it right away. We’ve got a Python 2 and a Python 3 version, both of which are built on the official Python Docker image.

Don’t have an account for the testing period? You can use the following promo code for early access: try-python.

Try our example script: The CO2 calculator

We also created a nifty little CO2 calculator that you can use to try out our Python image. Just follow the quickstart to calculate how much CO2 is saved by Nerdalize each year. It’ll show you:

1) Total CO2 savings in kilograms and travel distances (by car, train & plane). For example, for just a few households, the reduction of CO2 emissions is equal to almost 4 car trips 🚗 around the world 🌎. The CO2 calculator will give you the exact number.

2) A chart showing how many airplane trips you could make to various destinations.

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About our cloudsoftware
Liesanne Wieleman
posted this January 25

We have 100 beta user spots available!

As you know, we’ve been working hard to make our sustainable cloud available to a wider audience. Our first users have started test driving our cloud platform and I’m excited to share the beta version of our command-line interface with you as well!

Already over 200 people have claimed their free access to the cloud platform, which means that there are only 100 spots left for the testing period! The more people use our cloud, the more houses we can heat with computing power.

Claim your free 8 vCPU and test drive our CLI

As a beta user, you can run your compute jobs on the Nerdalize platform for free! To claim your free access, I’ve created a promo code for you: hottest-cloud-provider

With this promo code, you’ll get free access to your own 8 vCPU cluster during the testing period. To make test driving our beta version easy, there are several quickstarts available for you.

Use our quickstart guides to get started

Give Python a spin — We made a Python quickstart guide to easily get started with running your Python scripts.

Bring your own image — Simply: register, install the CLI, (read the instructions) and get started.

Or have a look at all the ready-to-use software using Docker images!

Overview applications

About our cloudsoftware
Emeline Gaulard
posted this December 19, 2017

4 Reasons why to use Docker

Containerization is one of the fastest growing technologies in the software world. One of the leading companies that provide a software container platform is Docker. But why is containerization better for you and what makes Docker so suitable for the Nerdalize cloud?

At Nerdalize, our biggest challenge is to distribute all the computations from our customers over our CloudBoxes which are scattered over the Netherlands. The portability of containers makes it possible to run jobs on multiple CloudBoxes without compatibility issues.

By utilizing Docker’s technology, we have created a platform and ecosystem which allows us to scale up your computations. You simply provide the Docker image and we provide the computing resources.

Docker logo

The use of Docker isn’t only important for us to distribute compute power, it’s also important for you as a cloud customer. Currently, the cloud market is expensive and rather non-transparent. We believe it’s important that the cloud market becomes more transparent and flexible, which can be realized by using containers to run your computations. Below you’ll find four ways in which Docker containers help you:

1. Portability avoids vendor lock-in at one cloud provider

As I said before the portability of Docker is important to set up our infrastructure, but it’s also important for you as a cloud customer. The Docker image itself contains everything it needs in order to run a specific process. It’s independent of its environment, which gives you a lot of flexibility in choosing the environment you want to run it in. This makes it reliable to run processes in various environments at different cloud providers. And most importantly it’ll be easy to retrieve your data afterwards, avoiding vendor lock-in at one cloud provider and saving you much time and effort.

2. Transparency of costs and performance

Docker containers are based on open standards and it’s supported by most providers. This enables you to run the same container at different cloud providers and get feedback on the performance of different machines. The open standards for containers make it easy for you to benchmark several providers, which makes the costs and performance transparent.

We can also help you to benchmark your process. Our benchmarking tool will help you choose the instance with the best price/performance for your compute job. You’ll receive an overview of the price/performance and runtime per cloud provider for your specific project. This makes it easier for you to choose a cloud provider.

Do you want to know more about our benchmarking tool? Read our blog post on how to budget cloud expenses.

3. Use resources efficiently for multiple processes to save time and reduce cloud expenses

The memory, CPU and disk usage of containers can be accurately controlled. Also, they don’t need a separate operating system, so multiple containers can run simultaneously. Both reducing the total amount of hardware that is used.

Another advantage of containers is that it’s possible to run multiple processes in one container. You can set up a dependency order in the container, which enables you to run a certain simulation and let it directly continue post-processing with a different software package. You don’t need to install any of the software packages since they are already in the container. That makes it much easier to send your complete process to the cloud. Saving you time and effort, because the installation of multiple packages can be skipped.

The ease of controlling the resource usage and the fact that containers run few overhead processes, enables very efficient hardware use. Thereby, we can offer you very affordable pricing for cloud computing. Also, more efficient use of hardware makes computations more sustainable, because less energy is used for the same computation.

4. Easy to maintain and share different versions of software

At Nerdalize we want to make computing easy and straightforward. Because many developers use Docker, new Docker images become available constantly. Many software vendors publish their own Docker containers or supply an installation guide for you to make your own images. This means that you can easily adjust and use existing Docker images for your computations.

Additionally, it’s important that you can easily maintain your containers during a project. It can be essential to quickly fix a bug, add a new feature during the process or apply a new version of an application. Containers can often be run with just a single command. This makes it easy to share your work with your colleagues by just sharing the Docker container itself. You can write your code locally and share the image with your colleagues via Docker Hub or other image repositories. As a result, you can easily collaborate without any version or compatibility issues. A great way to improve productivity when working in teams!

Important to keep in mind

Using Docker enables us to make the cloud market transparent and flexible. It’s a great technology for cloud computing, but it’s relatively new and therefore constantly developing. For some software applications, such as Windows software or applications with complex licensing structures, it can still be hard to create a Docker image. However, when your software application is suitable, Docker has many benefits. Giving you enough reasons to start looking into the technology!

Do you need help to set up a Docker image? Find out how we can support you. We offer in-house training sessions to organizations as well as Docker workshops and we’re always happy to answer your questions.

About our cloud
Liesanne Wieleman
posted this August 30, 2017

How it all started..

Using cloud servers to heat houses? Who comes up with something like that? Boaz Leupe reveals the legendary story to you of the foundation of Nerdalize.

The legendary story

‘It was a cold winter morning, as Mathijs and I were renovating the apartment where we lived as students. While we were painting the walls, the thermostat formed an obstacle for the painting. I pulled the thermostat of the wall not thinking about the effect. All the wires retracted into the wall cavity and the entire heating system stopped working. It was the middle of the winter and it was a freezing -8 °C. As you can imagine, the apartment turned very cold, very fast. We were already picturing a very cold winter and thinking of ways to stay warm. Then Mathijs, studying computer science at the time, walked into the room while hugging his laptop. Jokingly he said: “Let’s just order a hundred extra laptops, so we can heat the room with nerd heat!”.

At first we made fun of the idea and laughed, but suddenly we realized that the idea could actually work! The idea kept coming up and we started doing some simple calculations on the energy efficiency and business model. We found that this idea is not only very sustainable, but makes economic sense as well. Spreading servers over households would save us the costs of building a datacenter.

Nerdalize founders

During my second study, Entrepreneurship at Maastricht University, I met Florian. Back then, we were roommates in Maastricht and we got along very well. Mathijs and I still met up regularly and would bring up nerd heat every single time. Hearing more about it, Florian also became very enthusiastic about our idea: a distributed datacenter, providing free residual heat from servers and thereby lowering CO2 emissions and saving us the cost of building a datacenter. We decided to send in our idea for the Local Hero Award which guided us in the right direction. Winning the 10.000 euro price helped us to decide: We are going to pursue this! Let’s finish our master’s degree and start focusing on building our company, Nerdalize.

Finally, we all had graduated and we got together. The Nerd pack was complete and Nerdalize was officially founded.’

What started as a crazy plan

Now, almost four years later, the idea has developed into an ambitious company with a patented heating system based on computer servers and a team of more than 20 nerds working on the technical and business development of Nerdalize. The first homeowners are now making use of the residual heat produced by the servers we placed in their home. We pay for the energy consumption of the CloudBox, so the homeowners get the heat for free, saving them up to 300 euro per year on their gas bill. Companies and researchers make use of our servers for their computations by purchasing our affordable and sustainable compute power.

But how will the Nerdalize adventure continue?

Who knows? Our goal is to install 50 CloudBoxes in households by the end of the year. After that, we’ll be scaling up to the rest of the Netherlands. Then Europe and the rest of the world will follow, enabling us to become the largest and most sustainable distributed datacenter around the world!


CloudBox

About our company
Liesanne Wieleman
posted this August 2, 2017

How do you even budget cloud expenses?

This cost comparison between cloud providers is not easy to make. At Nerdalize, we find it important to help our customers make the right consideration between different providers and instance types.

To make this decision easier for you, we have created a benchmark tool. This tool will give you an overview of the runtime and price/performance for different cloud providers, which makes it possible for you to choose the most suitable cloud provider for your compute job.

Do you want to use the cloud, but you do not know where to start?

Currently, there are a lot of cloud providers with different instances, prices and additional services. There are variable and fixed factors that could influence your choice of cloud provider. Some of these variable factors are price, performance and runtime.

Benchmark badges

The performance of a server is influenced by several factors, which include the number and type of CPUs, storage and RAM. Each compute job has a different specification and thereby needs a different configuration. Some compute jobs might need a lot of RAM, where other jobs are more CPU intensive. Additionally, not all compute jobs necessarily perform better on more CPUs. Therefore it is important to choose an instance that matches the specifications of your job. By choosing the right infrastructure for your job, it is possible to increase the performance and thereby decrease the runtime in order to lower your costs.

Benchmark Report: Plan your own project now!

At Nerdalize we developed a benchmarking tool that runs a small sample of your compute project with a specific software program and sample dataset on different instances at different cloud providers. Comparing the performance of this sample job at different providers enables us to give you an overview of the price/performance per cloud provider for your specific project.

Cost per job
providers/awsproviders/azureproviders/gceproviders/nerdalize

As a result, you get a report with the runtime and price per instance for your sample job. Whether you are looking for the fastest machine or the best price/performance, this overview enables you to choose the right instance and provider for your project. The benchmark report makes it possible to compare the performance and costs of your compute job on multiple cloud providers, such as the Google Compute Engine, AWS, Azure and Nerdalize.

The benchmark report shows you the variables runtime and cost per job, so you can choose the optimal instance for you. Move the slider between runtime and costs and select the optimal instance for you, just like Erik did:

This is really wonderful! First, the Nerdalize Benchmark tool is really clear and well designed… fun to play with. Second, the results are super promising.

Erik Schultes

The benchmark report does not only help you to compare several cloud providers, it is also a great tool to help you forecast the total runtime and cost of your specific project. This helps you plan the total runtime and budget of your compute project and communicate it to your customers or colleagues.

It is important to carefully think about your choice in cloud provider and take into account all the factors. Are you not sure which cloud provider and what factors suit your compute job? Get a benchmark report or get in touch! And find out which cloud provider is the most suitable for your project.

About our cloud
Liesanne Wieleman
posted this July 19, 2017