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DOE Olympus Supercomputer Cooled By Groundwater

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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US Department of Energy makes big savings cooling Olympus supercomputer with 65 degree groundwater

The US Department of Energy is using groundwater to cool a 162 teraflop supercomputer at its Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington State.

It claims that the cooling system for the Olympus supercomputer has resulted in big savings for the laboratory, which was the target of a cyber attack in July last year, which resulted in its systems being taken offline.

Seventy percent more efficient

The system is cooled by 65 degree (18 degrees celcius) groundwater fed into a closed loop of water pipes that absorbs the heat created by the machine. This used 70 percent less energy than traditional cooling systems and saves the laboratory $61,000 (£39,000) a year.

The Olympus supercomputer is used for energy, chemical and fluid dynamics research and is currently researching future power grid infrastructure and ways to improve battery design.

It has a speed of 162 teraflops, 38.7 terabytes of ram and four petabytes of disk space, while it is powered by 1,200 dual AMD Interlagos 16-core processors.

The groundwater-fed cooling system is only used for the Olympus with the rest of the data centre being cooled using more traditional methods, but the director of institutional computing at Pacific Northwest, Kevin Rigembal, has said that the project has been such a success that it could expand it.

“We don’t need mechanical cooling, don’t have any chillers, and are doing the cooling relatively close to the source of the heat,” he said. “We’re cooling for the cost of moving water around.”

IBM has pioneered another novel way of cooling supercomputers. It delivered one to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH) which was cooled by hot water, cutting its carbon footprint by up to 85 percent.

IBM’s efforts were rewarded in July last year when it was revealed that its supercomputers were the most energy efficient in the world.