Energy efficient computing for energy technology lab

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The US Government’s efforts to improve national energy efficiency are being supported by simulations from a new energy-efficient data centre, being installed at the US Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).

SGI has announced that it is partnering with URS Energy and Construction to design, build, and deploy an energy-efficient ICE Cube Air modular data centre to provide high performance computing to the NETL’s site in Morgantown, West Virginia. NETL will use the system to develop cleaner and more efficient coal-fired electricity generation. By using computer-aided engineering and simulation, researchers hope to avoid having to build several generations of physical prototypes.

At 500 Teraflops, this system ranks among the top HPC systems in the world and delivers an average Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.03, under both normal and extreme operational loads via sustained Linpack testing. URS chose the ICE Cube Air modular data centre design because the deployment of green technologies and the pursuit of energy efficiency are at the heart of the NETL’s mission.

The design uses one per cent of the water needed by standard water-chilled containers, and requires only standard potable water from a garden hose. High-efficiency fans, along with an innovative four-stage evaporative cooling system, allow the ICE Cube Air to run with outside air and evaporative cooling in most climates.

The system is housed in 40 racks and includes 378 SGI Rackable servers. It features 24,192 Intel Xeon E5-2670 processors providing peak performance of over 500 Teraflops. The system includes 72 terabytes of system memory and nine petabytes of total storage. The system is connected via an InfiniBand fabric, based on Mellanox ConnectX adapters and IS5600 enterprise-class 648-port switches. As part of this agreement, SGI Professional Services provides project management, installation support and training of URS and DOE staff involved in the project.

‘SGI is honoured to provide the DOE NETL with a complete HPC solution to accelerate the discovery of how to get cleaner and more efficient energy production to meet the current and future demands,’ said Jorge Titinger, president and CEO of SGI. ‘To support these initiatives with a data centre operating at industry-leading PUE means that the DOE leads by example.’

In addition to research conducted onsite, NETL's project portfolio includes R&D conducted through partnerships, cooperative research and development agreements, financial assistance, and contractual arrangements with universities and the private sector. Together, these efforts focus a wealth of scientific and engineering talent on creating commercially viable solutions to the US’s energy and environmental problems.