IBM Hot Water-Cooled Supercomputer Goes Live at ETH Zurich

Jul 02, 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 percent.

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 and 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 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 , 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).

Explore further: Successful read/write of digital data in fused silica glass with high recording density

Related Stories

Recommended for you

US official: Auto safety agency under review

1 hour ago

Transportation officials are reviewing the "safety culture" of the U.S. agency that oversees auto recalls, a senior Obama administration official said Friday. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been criticized ...

Out-of-patience investors sell off Amazon

1 hour ago

Amazon has long acted like an ideal customer on its own website: a freewheeling big spender with no worries about balancing a checkbook. Investors confident in founder and CEO Jeff Bezos' invest-and-expand ...

Ebola.com domain sold for big payout

1 hour ago

The owners of the website Ebola.com have scored a big payday with the outbreak of the epidemic, selling the domain for more than $200,000 in cash and stock.

Hacker gets prison for cyberattack stealing $9.4M

5 hours ago

An Estonian man who pleaded guilty to orchestrating a 2008 cyberattack on a credit card processing company that enabled hackers to steal $9.4 million has been sentenced to 11 years in prison by a federal judge in Atlanta.

Magic Leap moves beyond older lines of VR

6 hours ago

Two messages from Magic Leap: Most of us know that a world with dragons and unicorns, elves and fairies is just a better world. The other message: Technology can be mindboggingly awesome. When the two ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Buyck
not rated yet Jul 15, 2010
The way to exaflop is coming close! Small chips (11 to 5nm) or 3D chips and very low power management and we almost there!