IBM plans to build water-cooled supercomputer in Zurich

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The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH) and IBM are to build a water-cooled supercomputer that will directly repurpose excess heat for the university buildings.

The system, dubbed Aquasar, is expected to decrease the carbon footprint of the system by up to 85 per cent and estimated to save up to 30 tons of CO2 per year, compared to a similar system using today's cooling technologies.

Making computing systems and data centres energy-efficient is a staggering undertaking. In fact, up to 50 per cent of an average air-cooled data centre's carbon footprint or energy consumption 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.

With an innovative water-cooling system and direct heat reuse, the new supercomputer, which will be located at the ETH Zurich and is planned to start operation in 2010, will reduce overall energy consumption by 40 per cent. The system is based on long-term joint research collaboration of ETH and IBM scientists in the field of chip-level water-cooling, as well as on a concept for 'water-cooled data centres with direct energy re-use' advanced by scientists at IBM's Zurich Lab.

The water-cooled supercomputer will consist of two IBM BladeCenter servers in one rack and will have a peak performance of about 10 Teraflops.