BMW Finds Cool Locale for HPC Cluster

By Robert Gelber

September 20, 2012

Automaker BMW is getting ready to deploy an HPC cluster to run simulations for designing its next-generation ultimate driving machines. As with any supercomputing installation, this one is bound to consume plenty of energy, which translates to high operational expenses. So the car company decided to search for an efficient and environmentally friendly plan to manage their system. They settled on locating the machine at Verne Global’s Ásbrú datacenter in Iceland.

The country has become an interesting option for datacenter users because of its perpetually cool climate and cheap energy. Electricity in the island nation costs roughly 4.3 cents per kilowatt-hour, thanks to an abundance of renewable energy sources. The country generates most of its electricity from glacier-fed rivers and geothermal vents. Given these resources, it’s no surprise that Verne Global decided to setup their large scale computing facility at an abandoned NATO Air Force base located in the city of Keflavík.

Data Center Knowledge reported that Mario Mueller, BMW’s vice president of IT infrastructure and chair at the Open Data Center Alliance (ODCA), brought up the company’s plans at this year’s Intel Developer Forum. The car company will be Verne Global’s fifth customer after CCP Games, Datapipe, Opin Kerfi and GreenQloud.  It will also follow ODCA usage models to guide the cluster’s build.

This is certainly not the first time a company or organization has considered alternative approaches to providing energy and cooling to a large computing installation. Apple is utilizing solar panels and methane gas from a local landfill to generate electricity for their iCloud datacenter. The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) deployed a top 10 cluster in an oil submersion cooling system and Facebook built one of the world’s most efficient datacenters in Prineville Oregon using designs from the Open Compute Project.

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