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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

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

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

Thanks to all

This. Was. Epic. Thank you so much for your support! We started this campaign in the hope we could raise enough funds to start at 20 locations, but the enthusiasm was much higher than we could have hoped for! We raised our target, twice, and still managed to reach our 2nd stretch target before the campaign was planned to end. Amazing! This means we now have €750.000 to equip 50 locations, save a sweet 150 tons of CO2 and hire two extra software engineers so we can grow faster! We’ll have a little celebration tomorrow and then it’s back to, you know, changing the world. 😃

We are super proud that so many decided to support us and we hope that in a few years people will be able to say on birthdays that they were an early part of a successful adventure. We are going to do our very best to make that happen and you’ll hear about our next steps soon!

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About our company
Posted June 29

Cloud made easy for hydro engineers

Last week Nerdalize got the opportunity to present our cloud platform to Deltares users. Twice a year, Deltares organizes the Deltares Software Days, an event to meet up with users of Deltares software and talk about the latest developments and trends in the field of hydrology. For the past 3 DSDs we were invited to present our cloud platform. These are always very interesting moments to learn more about our users and their cloud needs!

Together with users of Deltares software we developed our platform in a way that makes it very easy for engineers to run their hydro simulations on our cloud resources. Like in other industry segments, you can see an increasing need for computing power in hydro engineering. With needs for higher resolutions and bigger simulations, projects often demand more computing power than an internal cluster can offer in order to meet deadlines.

In close collaboration with hydro engineers we developed a platform:
  • that decreases the time needed to run hydro models in the cloud
  • that offers computing power with the best price performance
  • without vendor lock-in at a specific cloud provider

Deltares User Research
Using Deltares software in the cloud

This DSD we showed users our new Command Line Interface. We developed a workflow for hydro engineers in order to use Deltares software on our cloud resources without needing support from the IT department. This enables hydro engineers to scale up to the cloud and lower the runtime of their projects without having to spend time and effort in setting up the environment. And use compute power of the most affordable cloud provider out there!

About our cloudcustomers
Maaike Stoops
posted this June 21

What we do in summer?

In my customer-facing role at Nerdalize I have explained our concept to hundreds of people in the year that I have been working here. I often talk about my work to potential customers, on network events and at fairs. And being someone that tends to take some work home, it often passes conversations with friends or family at birthday parties.

The responses are always very enthusiastic, but our solution also often triggers a lot of questions. One of the first things that often comes to mind: “but since you guys are producing heat, what do you do when there is no need for this heat? What about summer?”

Let me be clear on one thing: as a cloud customer you can keep running computations in summer. But how do we manage this heat production?

There are a number of measures we took to make sure we can compute and produce heat throughout every day of the year:

  1. Hot water buffer – One of the reasons we switched to heating water instead of air is that it is easier to create a thermal buffer. This way the water can be used in the kitchen or bathroom whenever the heat is needed. And people shower and wash dishes throughout the year anyhow!

  2. Distribution of heat – An advantage of our distributed system is that we can distribute the computations and thereby distribute the heat production based on the need for heat per household. If the maximum temperature is reached in one home, but not in another we can easily transfer a computation to a different CloudBox to make sure the heat is produced where it is still needed.

  3. Heat dump – In case we do have an overproduction of heat we designed the system to dispose of the heat. This is of course our last option and we will always try to make efficient use of all the produced heat.

  4. Future integrations – We are always looking at future integrations with different systems such as underfloor heating and heat pumps to make even more and more efficient use of all the produced heat from computations.

I am very happy to be working on a solution that gets both great responses, but also triggers a lot of questions with people! Is there anything you want to know from us? Please write us at hello@nerdalize.com

About our heater
Maaike Stoops
posted this June 19

Winning four out of seven prizes at The Next Web hack battle

The Nerdalize Hack Warriors

Two weeks ago, our “Nerdalize Hack Warriors” rocked at The Next Web hack battle. The theme of this hackathon was IoT - the battle of the sensors, where our Nerds have won four out of the seven prizes! Ad van der Veer, software engineer at Nerdalize, tells a bit more about their idea and their secret of winning this hack battle.

The Nerdalize Hack Warriors

Every team member had a unique expertise and knew its role in the team, which made us the fierce Nerdalize Hack Warriors. Our team was ambitious and had all the expertise which was needed to develop an idea around the theme IoT. Some could write a program in low-level language, others could develop the front-end or had experience with the installation of the sensors. We had a full stack team, which made it possible to create a fully functional product in a short period of time.

Rock-on.space - measuring the mood in bars

Our idea is an app that lists nearby bars and venues on a map and show real time information on what music is playing and gives you an indication of the mood. In one hour, we got in one interested cafe owner for our product. During the final presentation, we even had a working version live at the venue!

We would like to thank the following sponsors for the prizes:

IBM - Using their Bluemix cloud platform effectively

Radix - For our creative domain name: “rock-on.space”

The Things Network - For our brilliant use of the sensors

Toon - For our application for measuring the average mood in bars

Additionally, we got a honourable mention for the grand prize, effectively a second place. Altogether a great event to develop our skills and work with our Nerd team in an inspirational and fun setting. Up to the next Hackathon!

About our teamcompany
Ad van der Veer
posted this June 8

#MakeOurPlanetGreatAgain

Of course it is all over the news today, Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Accord signed in December 2015 by almost 200 nations.

The agreement is the cornerstone for global cooperation to tackle one of humanity’s greatest challenges, climate change. It was a breakthrough in the joint cooperation of governments that don’t often agree on a specific issue, giving us all the idea that maybe, just maybe we can really fight climate change together.

And even with all the drama around Trump deciding to pull out (while 70% of US citizens actually agree with the Paris Accord) there is good news too.

Many (world) leaders such as Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, Paolo Gentiloni, former President Barack Obama and former Governor turned Youtube star Arnold Schwarzenegger have made it clear that they stand behind the agreement and are going to do their part to fight climate change. (Wow, Macron showed how to make that message heard!)

And luckily we, in the Netherlands, Europe but also in the US, don’t have to only rely on politicians to do the right thing. In many ways we as citizens and by now SMEs and even corporates are ahead of policy when it comes to taken measures to reduce our (carbon) footprint. If it means placing solar panels on your roof, looking into electric transportation, or just reducing household waste and energy usage, many of us are looking for ways to contribute.

Nerdalize CloudBox Providing Hot Water
The CloudBox saves CO2 by providing households with server-heat

At Nerdalize the commitment to make heating your home but also cloud computing sustainable is built into our DNA and we work hard on our mission. Importantly we are also not alone in this.

Our energy partner Eneco supplies us with 100% green electricity to run our servers, making us the first climate neutral cloud provider while more than 300 people joined our crowdfunding campaign to roll out our system in the Netherlands. Which meant within 25 hours we decided to up our target to € 500.000 and give a chance to those of you that want to take part in making heating and cloud computing sustainable.

So if you want to give us a hand, you can invest (from 20€!) in our campaign to reach the target of heating 42 homes and invite your friends to take part via our super simple sharing page. (A small tip: By investing you start earning 7% per year on the money you invest & get shares in Nerdalize!)

Let’s show Trump and others how it is done!

#MakeOurPlanetGreatAgain

About our CO2 savingscompany
Florian Schneider
posted this June 2

Comparing our energy efficiency to datacenters using PUE and SPUE

At Nerdalize, we want our energy consumption to be as low as possible, which means it is essential to use our energy efficiently. In order to do so, we find it important to be able to calculate our energy efficiency as accurate as possible. In this blog, you can read about how we are able to calculate our energy efficiency, using the PUE and SPUE score, and how this allows us to compare our own efficiency with other datacenters.

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About our CO2 savingsheater
Liesanne Wieleman
posted this June 1

Nerdalize — Providing cloud services that are almost CO2-neutral

Current datacenters are huge energy wasters. Not only is a lot of energy is spent on the building and infrastructure, computer servers produce a lot of heat, therefore a lot of energy is needed to cool down all the servers in the datacenter. Although datacenters are getting more efficient in their energy use, the increasing cloud market makes that the datacenter industry now emits more CO2 than the aviation industry and this share is only getting larger. That is why we at Nerdalize are working hard on a sustainable alternative to current cloud solutions.

That all sounds pretty great, but what is the actual effect of our approach on the environment? That is what we asked Bas Minnema. During his graduation project for Science, Business & Innovation at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, he made an assessment of the total CO2 emissions in the life cycle of a Nerdalize server-heater.

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About our CO2 savingsheater
Liesanne Wieleman
posted this May 15