March 31, 2014

Best Practices in Datacenter Cooling

The High Performance Computing Collaboratory (HPC²) at Mississippi State University is boosting its high-performance computing capabilities with the installation of “Shadow,” a Cray® CS300-LC™ liquid-cooled cluster supercomputer. The HPC² is a coalition of member centers and groups that share a common core objective of advancing the state of the art in computational science and engineering using high performance computing.

MSU’s challenge started when they needed a powerful and efficient new primary supercomputing system for the HPC2. Almost four years ago, the university installed its first chilled water-cooled system, which was tied into the building’s air conditioning system and cooled through the use of chilled rear doors. That system worked well, but when MSU needed to upgrade its computing capabilities the existing chiller plant didn’t have enough capacity to handle the additional load.

Faced with the prospect of purchasing a larger chiller, the MSU team researched the feasibility of warm water cooling technology. With Mississippi’s subtropical climate, they weren’t sure whether they could sufficiently cool a system without using chillers. The CS300-LC system’s capability to be cooled with water as warm as 40°C (104°F) proved it was a viable solution.

“Shadow,” a Cray CS300-LC liquid-cooled supercomputer
Photo courtesy of Mississippi State University

The Cray CS300-LC system’s building block blade platform features dual-processor nodes — 60 nodes can fit into a standard 42U rack cabinet. Intel Xeon processors are combined with Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors or GPU accelerators.

The new Cray CS300-LC cluster features Intel® Xeon® processors and Intel® Xeon Phi™ coprocessors and generates 316 teraflops of peak performance while using minimal energy. Almost half the system’s heat load is produced by the coprocessors, making it necessary to cool the coprocessors in addition to the main processors and memory. MSU concluded that the CS300-LC system was the only solution on the market that could cool all three critical components using warm water. The system uses a dry cooler—a large radiator with a series of fans that reduce water temperature to within a few degrees of outside ambient temperature—to cool the system without the use of any chillers or other power-hungry technologies.

By eliminating the need for a new chiller system, MSU reduced capital infrastructure and operational costs and freed up more resources for increased computational capabilities. Additionally, the remote monitoring capabilities and multiple sensors in the CS300-LC system lets MSU system administrators monitor and control cooling parameters from anywhere in the world.

Join Cray and MSU on April 15, 2014 for a live webcast and Q&A on this topic. Sign up today!

Upcoming Webcast: Designing an Energy Efficient Datacenter Using Warm Water Cooling Technology

Date: 4/15/2014
Live webcast delivered two times:

8am PDT/11am EDT/5pm CEST
11am PDT/2pm EDT/8pm CEST

In this 1-hour webcast, Cray customer Mississippi State University will share best practices in maximizing datacenter energy efficiency using warm water cooling technology based on the Cray CS300-LC cluster solution. We’ll cover architecture and facility considerations such as site selection, risk factors and issues impacting TCO.


For an intro to the Cray CS300-LC cluster supercomputer watch this quick video, go to  or fill out our web form, and a Cray sales representative will be glad to assist you in finding the right products and services to meet your needs.

Portions of this In the Spotlight advertorial have been adapted from a Cray blog article appearing on

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