[Beowulf] 6 TFlops, 450 MFlops/W watercooled IBM @ ETH

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Sun Jul 4 09:05:01 PDT 2010


IBM Hot Water-Cooled Supercomputer Goes Live at ETH Zurich

July 2, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- IBM has delivered a first-of-a-kind hot water-cooled
supercomputer to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH
Zurich), marking a new era in energy-aware computing.  The innovative system,
dubbed Aquasar, consumes up to 40 percent less energy than a comparable
air-cooled machine. Through the direct use of waste heat to provide warmth to
university buildings, Aquasar's carbon footprint is reduced by up to 85

Building energy efficient computing systems and data centers is a staggering
undertaking. In fact, up to 50 percent of an average air-cooled data center's
energy consumption and carbon footprint today is not caused by computing but
by powering the necessary cooling systems to keep the processors from
overheating - a situation that is far from optimal when looking at energy
efficiency from a holistic perspective.

The development of Aquasar began one year ago as part of IBM's
First-Of-A-Kind (FOAK) program, which engages IBM scientists with clients to
explore and pilot emerging technologies that address business problems. The
supercomputer consists of special water-cooled IBM BladeCenter Servers, which
were designed and manufactured by IBM scientists in Zurich and Boblingen,
Germany. For direct comparison with traditional systems, Aquasar also holds
additional air-cooled IBM BladeCenter servers.

In total, the system achieves a performance of six Teraflops and has an
energy efficiency of about 450 megaflops per watt. In addition, nine
kilowatts of thermal power are fed into the ETH Zurich's building heating
system. With its innovative water-cooling system and direct utilization of
waste heat, Aquasar is now fully-operational at the Department of Mechanical
and Process Engineering at ETH Zurich.

"With Aquasar, we make an important contribution to the development of
sustainable high performance computers and computer system. In the future it
will be important to measure how efficiently a computer is per watt and per
gram of equivalent CO2 production," said Prof. Dimos Poulikakos, head of the
Laboratory of Thermodynamics in New Technologies, ETH Zurich.

Innovative water-cooling system

The processors and numerous other components in the new high performance
computer are cooled with up to 60 degrees C warm water. This is made possible
by an innovative cooling system that comprises micro-channel liquid coolers
which are attached directly to the processors, where most heat is generated.
With this chip-level cooling the thermal resistance between the processor and
the water is reduced to the extent that even cooling water temperatures of up
to 60 degrees C ensure that the operating temperatures of the processors
remain well below the maximally allowed 85 degrees C. The high input
temperature of the coolant results in an even higher-grade heat at the
output, which in this case is up to 65 degrees C. Overall, water removes heat
4,000 times more efficiently than air.

"With Aquasar we achieved an important milestone on the way to CO2-neutral
data centers," said Dr. Bruno Michel, manager of Advanced Thermal Packaging
at IBM Research - Zurich. "The next step in our research is to focus on the
performance and characteristics of the cooling system which will be measured
with an extensive system of sensors, in order to optimize it further."

Aquasar is part of a three-year collaborative research program called "Direct
use of waste heat from liquid-cooled supercomputers: the path to energy
saving, emission-high performance computers and data centers." In addition to
ETH Zurich and IBM Research - Zurich, the project also involves ETH Lausanne.
It is supported by the Swiss Centre of Competence of support for Energy and
Mobility (CCEM).

Source: IBM

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