NREL’s Supercomputer Debuts New Technology

By Richard L. Brandt

March 13, 2013

Here’s an interesting dilemma: What if you were awarded millions of dollars to build a new, state-of-the-art, 1-petaflops supercomputer, but had no place to put it?

That’s the situation that the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) faced a few years ago. Congress appropriated money for NREL to order a new supercomputer system, but its existing datacenter was too small to hold it.

NREL’s solution: It began working on a new energy-efficient datacenter, one designed to be cheaper to build and operate than comparable datacenters. At the same time, it pooled some money with Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM, in order to jointly purchase a 500 teraflops system. The labs installed that system in the Sandia datacenter, and both organizations have access to it until NREL’s datacenter is fully equipped.

NREL then requisitioned its new computer from HP.

The whole process is now coming to completion. The new datacenter is largely done. The first phase of the new computer system has been installed and tested. Delivery of phase two – the 1-petaflops system – is about to begin.

It’s just in time. The shared computer at Sandia, a Red Mesa system from Sun’s pre-Oracle days, is no longer sufficient to serve both labs’ needs. It is averaging 92 percent utilization, day in and day out.

Despite the time it took, there were advantages to this approach. HP is sending NREL some new, still-unnamed servers that not only include some of the the latest Intel Xeon processors and Xeon Phi co-processors, but also a new warm-water liquid cooling system that HP has not yet unveiled to the public.

NREL was also able to essentially design a datacenter around its new computer system in order to create an integrated whole. The cooling system, for example, makes compressor-based chillers unnecessary. The servers use 480 VAC power, which eliminates power converters. Less equipment means more space, enabling the servers to be packed into just 10,000 square feet of raised floor space. Warm-water cooling means most of the servers do not require hot and cold aisle containment. The hot water can be used to heat the building or melt snow.

“Taking this integrated look at a datacenter from an energy efficient building perspective drove a lot of the decisions we made,” says NREL Computational Science Center Director Steve Hammond. “Otherwise you could make locally-optimized decisions that are not as efficient as they could be if you stepped back” to see the big picture.

The first racks of the new system were delivered last November, right after SC12. More arrived in early January. The final four racks (out of 10 total) arrived on February 19. Most of the equipment consists of HP ProLiant SL230s and SL250s Gen8 servers powered by Intel Xeon E5-2670 8-core CPUs. This is the Sandy Bridge generation, using 32nm technology.

However, those last four racks each contain something new. They hold prototypes of a next-generation server family that HP will be introducing to the rest of the world next year. This new server uses next-generation Intel Xeon Ivy Bridge processors and Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors, both built on 22nm technology.

These servers also feature HP’s prototype direct-to-chip warm-water liquid cooling system. “The primary heat exchange is at the chip level, with heat going (directly) to liquid rather than going to air first and then liquid,” says NREL’s Hammond. Water will arrive at the servers at about 75 degrees Fahrenheit and leave at about 100 degrees F.

The combination of the ProLiant servers and the new prototypes comprise phase one, consisting of about 11,500 cores in 10 compute racks. That system reached over 200 teraflops on LINPACK tests last month, meeting its intermediate performance milestone.

The real show, however, comes with phase two. That’s a 1-petaflops system made up entirely of HP’s new servers, including the new cooling system. These are the first production versions HP is delivering to a customer. They should start arriving from Houston by early summer and will be standing in the datacenter before the end of August.

To say this is a showcase datacenter is an understatement. It has has floor-to-ceiling glass windows to allow visitors to look in from the corridors. “People say it looks more like an aquarium than a datacenter,” says Hammond. Part of the idea is to show off its energy efficiency for others interested in saving energy and money.

Hammond is hoping, however, that the datacenter-under-glass doesn’t become too popular a display. He’s already regularly guiding visitors past the aquarium, despite the fact that the main system is not yet installed. He needs to get some work done.

Related articles

Heat-Trapping and NREL’s Green Datacenter Leadership Effort

HP, Intel Score Petaflop Supercomputer at DOE Lab

National Renewable Energy Laboratory Selects HP, Intel to Provide HPC Cluster

Asetek to Convert Air-Cooled DoD Datacenter To Direct-To-Chip Liquid-Cooling Technology

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

SRC Spends $200M on University Research Centers

January 16, 2018

The Semiconductor Research Corporation, as part of its JUMP initiative, has awarded $200 million to fund six research centers whose areas of focus span cognitive computing, memory-centric computing, high-speed communicat Read more…

By John Russell

US Seeks to Automate Video Analysis

January 16, 2018

U.S. military and intelligence agencies continue to look for new ways to use artificial intelligence to sift through huge amounts of video imagery in hopes of freeing analysts to identify threats and otherwise put their Read more…

By George Leopold

URISC@SC17 and the #LongestLastMile

January 11, 2018

A multinational delegation recently attended the Understanding Risk in Shared CyberEcosystems workshop, or URISC@SC17, in Denver, Colorado. URISC participants and presenters from 11 countries, including eight African nations, 12 U.S. states, Canada, India and Nepal, also attended SC17, the annual international conference for high performance computing, networking, storage and analysis that drew nearly 13,000 attendees. Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake, STEM-Trek Nonprofit

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE and NREL Take Steps to Create a Sustainable, Energy-Efficient Data Center with an H2 Fuel Cell

As enterprises attempt to manage rising volumes of data, unplanned data center outages are becoming more common and more expensive. As the cost of downtime rises, enterprises lose out on productivity and valuable competitive advantage without access to their critical data. Read more…

When the Chips Are Down

January 11, 2018

In the last article, "The High Stakes Semiconductor Game that Drives HPC Diversity," I alluded to the challenges facing the semiconductor industry and how that may impact the evolution of HPC systems over the next few years. I thought I’d lift the covers a little and look at some of the commercial challenges that impact the component technology we use in HPC. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

When the Chips Are Down

January 11, 2018

In the last article, "The High Stakes Semiconductor Game that Drives HPC Diversity," I alluded to the challenges facing the semiconductor industry and how that may impact the evolution of HPC systems over the next few years. I thought I’d lift the covers a little and look at some of the commercial challenges that impact the component technology we use in HPC. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

Momentum Builds for US Exascale

January 9, 2018

2018 looks to be a great year for the U.S. exascale program. The last several months of 2017 revealed a number of important developments that help put the U.S. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

ANL’s Rick Stevens on CANDLE, ARM, Quantum, and More

January 8, 2018

Late last year HPCwire caught up with Rick Stevens, associate laboratory director for computing, environment and life Sciences at Argonne National Laboratory, f Read more…

By John Russell

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The @hpcnotes Predictions for HPC in 2018

January 4, 2018

I’m not averse to making predictions about the world of High Performance Computing (and Supercomputing, Cloud, etc.) in person at conferences, meetings, causa Read more…

By Andrew Jones

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

Independent Hyperion Research Will Chart its Own Course

December 19, 2017

Hyperion Research, formerly the HPC research and consulting practice within IDC, has become an independent company with Earl Joseph, the long-time leader of the Read more…

By John Russell

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he Read more…

By John Russell

Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it's early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open questi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

Tensors Come of Age: Why the AI Revolution Will Help HPC

November 13, 2017

Thirty years ago, parallel computing was coming of age. A bitter battle began between stalwart vector computing supporters and advocates of various approaches to parallel computing. IBM skeptic Alan Karp, reacting to announcements of nCUBE’s 1024-microprocessor system and Thinking Machines’ 65,536-element array, made a public $100 wager that no one could get a parallel speedup of over 200 on real HPC workloads. Read more…

By John Gustafson & Lenore Mullin

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Flipping the Flops and Reading the Top500 Tea Leaves

November 13, 2017

The 50th edition of the Top500 list, the biannual publication of the world’s fastest supercomputers based on public Linpack benchmarking results, was released Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they've entered in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Nvidia, Partners Announce Several V100 Servers

September 27, 2017

Here come the Volta 100-based servers. Nvidia today announced an impressive line-up of servers from major partners – Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Delivers 17-Qubit Quantum Chip to European Research Partner

October 10, 2017

On Tuesday, Intel delivered a 17-qubit superconducting test chip to research partner QuTech, the quantum research institute of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. The announcement marks a major milestone in the 10-year, $50-million collaborative relationship with TU Delft and TNO, the Dutch Organization for Applied Research, to accelerate advancements in quantum computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This