MSU Turns to Liquid-Cooled Cluster Supercomputer

Mississippi State University had a need for a powerful and efficient new primary supercomputing system for their High Performance Computing Collaboratory (HPC2) –  a coalition focused on advancing the state of the art in computational science and engineering using high performance computing. They chose the Cray® CS300™ liquid-cooled cluster supercomputer.

Nicknamed “Shadow,” MSU’s new Cray CS300-LC cluster generates 316.1 teraflops of peak performance while using minimal energy. This efficiency is accomplished in part through a hybrid architecture featuring Intel® Xeon® processors and Intel® Xeon Phi™ coprocessors, and because the system uses warm water for cooling.

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 the time came to upgrade their computing capabilities, their existing chiller plant didn’t have enough capacity to handle the additional load.

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

MSU configured its system with two Intel® Xeon Phi™ coprocessors per node, which means that almost half the system’s heat load will be produced by the coprocessors. This makes 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 of these critical components using warm water. It 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. This can dramatically decrease cooling costs.

By eliminating the need to purchase and operate a new chiller system, MSU was able to reduce capital infrastructure and operational costs, allowing the University’s limited resources to be used for increased computational capabilities.

MSU has previously relied on traditional chilled water-cooled systems with front and rear rack doors.  The remote monitoring capabilities and multiple sensors in the CS300-LC system provide MSU system administrators with additional peace of mind, allowing them to monitor and control cooling parameters from anywhere in the world.

Join Cray and MSU on April 15 for a live webcast, “Designing an Energy Efficient Datacenter Using Warm Water Cooling Technology,” to be held twice, at 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. PDT. A Q&A session will be held following speaker presentations. Sign up today and join the conversation!


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