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!

SC17 Preview: Invited Talk Lineup Includes Gordon Bell, Paul Messina and Many Others

September 25, 2017

With the addition of esteemed supercomputing pioneer Gordon Bell to its invited talk lineup, SC17 now boasts a total of 12 invited talks on its agenda. As SC explains, "Invited Talks are a premier component of the SC Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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’s max capacity and doubling 2016 attendee numbers), the one Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Machine Learning at HPC User Forum: Drilling into Specific Use Cases

September 22, 2017

The 66th HPC User Forum held September 5-7, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the elegant and historic Pfister Hotel, highlighting the 1893 Victorian décor and art of “The Grand Hotel Of The West,” contrasted nicely with Read more…

By Arno Kolster

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE Prepares Customers for Success with the HPC Software Portfolio

High performance computing (HPC) software is key to harnessing the full power of HPC environments. Development and management tools enable IT departments to streamline installation and maintenance of their systems as well as create, optimize, and run their HPC applications. Read more…

Google Cloud Makes Good on Promise to Add Nvidia P100 GPUs

September 21, 2017

Google has taken down the notice on its cloud platform website that says Nvidia Tesla P100s are “coming soon.” That's because the search giant has announced the beta launch of the high-end P100 Nvidia Tesla GPUs on t Read more…

By George Leopold

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

Machine Learning at HPC User Forum: Drilling into Specific Use Cases

September 22, 2017

The 66th HPC User Forum held September 5-7, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the elegant and historic Pfister Hotel, highlighting the 1893 Victorian décor and art o Read more…

By Arno Kolster

Stanford University and UberCloud Achieve Breakthrough in Living Heart Simulations

September 21, 2017

Cardiac arrhythmia can be an undesirable and potentially lethal side effect of drugs. During this condition, the electrical activity of the heart turns chaotic, Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud, and Francisco Sahli, Stanford University

PNNL’s Center for Advanced Tech Evaluation Seeks Wider HPC Community Ties

September 21, 2017

Two years ago the Department of Energy established the Center for Advanced Technology Evaluation (CENATE) at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). CENAT Read more…

By John Russell

Exascale Computing Project Names Doug Kothe as Director

September 20, 2017

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) has named Doug Kothe as its new director effective October 1. He replaces Paul Messina, who is stepping down after two years to return to Argonne National Laboratory. Kothe is a 32-year veteran of DOE’s National Laboratory System. Read more…

Takeaways from the Milwaukee HPC User Forum

September 19, 2017

Milwaukee’s elegant Pfister Hotel hosted approximately 100 attendees for the 66th HPC User Forum (September 5-7, 2017). In the original home city of Pabst Blu Read more…

By Merle Giles

Kathy Yelick Charts the Promise and Progress of Exascale Science

September 15, 2017

On Friday, Sept. 8, Kathy Yelick of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, delivered the keynote address on “Breakthrough Science at the Exascale” at the ACM Europe Conference in Barcelona. In conjunction with her presentation, Yelick agreed to a short Q&A discussion with HPCwire. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DARPA Pledges Another $300 Million for Post-Moore’s Readiness

September 14, 2017

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched a giant funding effort to ensure the United States can sustain the pace of electronic innovation vital to both a flourishing economy and a secure military. Under the banner of the Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI), some $500-$800 million will be invested in post-Moore’s Law technologies. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

Six Exascale PathForward Vendors Selected; DoE Providing $258M

June 15, 2017

The much-anticipated PathForward awards for hardware R&D in support of the Exascale Computing Project were announced today with six vendors selected – AMD Read more…

By John Russell

Top500 Results: Latest List Trends and What’s in Store

June 19, 2017

Greetings from Frankfurt and the 2017 International Supercomputing Conference where the latest Top500 list has just been revealed. Although there were no major Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Clears Path to 5nm with Silicon Nanosheets

June 5, 2017

Two years since announcing the industry’s first 7nm node test chip, IBM and its research alliance partners GlobalFoundries and Samsung have developed a proces 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

Leading Solution Providers

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Advances Web-based Quantum Programming

September 5, 2017

IBM Research is pairing its Jupyter-based Data Science Experience notebook environment with its cloud-based quantum computer, IBM Q, in hopes of encouraging a new class of entrepreneurial user to solve intractable problems that even exceed the capabilities of the best AI systems. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

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