The Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) and IBM have announced the world's first commercially available hot-water cooled supercomputer. The hot-water cooling technology invented by IBM allows the system to be built 10 times more compact and substantially improve its peak performance while consuming 40% less energy than a comparable air-cooled machine.
Up to 50% of an average air-cooled data centre's carbon footprint is caused by powering the necessary cooling systems. IBM has addressed the problem with a concept of hot-water cooling, which does away with air cooling systems. IBM's technology directly cools active components in the system such as processors and memory modules with coolant temperatures that can reach as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit, or 45 degrees Celsius.
The new LRZ "SuperMUC" system also allows energy to be captured and reused to heat the buildings during the winter on the sprawling Leibniz Supercomputing Centre campus, saving of one million Euros a year.
The SuperMUC system is Europe's fastest computer, according to the TOP500 list of the world's fastest supercomputers. It has a peak performance equivalent to the work of more than 110,000 personal computers. Or three billion people using a pocket calculator would have to perform one million operations per second each to reach equivalent performance.
The supercomputer will be used to drive a wide spectrum of research, from simulating the blood flow behind an artificial heart valve, to devising quieter airplanes and unearthing new insights in geophysics, including the understanding of earthquakes.
Two things grabbed my attention about this new whizz-bang computer. Firstly, a comment by Prof. Dr. Arndt Bode, Chairman of the Board, Leibniz Supercomputing Centre, “This year all the electricity consumed by state-funded institutions across Germany are required to purchase 100% sustainable energy. SuperMUC will help us keep our commitment, while giving the scientific community a best-in-class system to test theories, design experiments and predict outcomes as never before.”
So government policy on reduced emissions does work and this development shows it can lead to innovation and partnerships between the public and private sectors. (The LRZ is the computer centre for Munich's universities and for the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities). If only the UK government would learn the lesson.
Secondly, the waste heat is used in buildings during the winter, a more holistic approach to data centre energy use and adding significantly to the financial benefit. It seems odd that data centres in general waste so much energy in keeping things cool, when the heat could be used productively elsewhere, saving emissions and money. Maybe one day …
(Picture credit: IBM)