SuperMUC: Europe’s Fastest Supercomputer In Pictures

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The world’s number four supercomputer boasts a specially designed water cooling system

SuperMUC, Europe’s fastest supercomputer, which was announced in 2010, has been completed and formally switched on at a ceremony in Garching near Munich.

The launch, with Federal Research Minister Annette Schavan (CDU) and the Bavarian Science Minister Wolfgang Heubisch (FDP), gave our ZDnet.de colleagues a chance to look at the supercomputer, which was built by IBM using Xeon processors, and uses an energy efficient hot-water cooling system.

All image from ZDNet.de, unless otherwise stated

LRZ manager Arndt Bode, head of IBM Martina Koederitz, Federal Research Minister Annette Schavan and the Bavarian Science Minister Wolfgang Heubisch at the ceremony to hand over the SuperMUC (Image: ZDNet.de).
LRZ manager Arndt Bode, head of IBM Martina Koederitz, Federal Research Minister Annette Schavan and the Bavarian Science Minister Wolfgang Heubisch at the ceremony to hand over the SuperMUC (Image: ZDNet.de).

The supercomputer, at the Leibniz-Rechenzentrum (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, works at more than 3 Petaflops, is the fastest supercomputer in Europe, as well as number four in the Top 500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers.

SuperMUC is a System X iDataPlex IBM machine, with a total of more than 155,000 cores. It has more than 330 Tbyte of main memory, accessed through a non-blocking InfiniBand network with a “fat tree” topology.

It can also can buffer up to 10 petabyte in a parallel GPFS file system from IBM. The operating system is Suse Linux Enterprise Server.

For permanent storage of user data such as program source or input data sets, SuperMUC has a storage solution from NetApp with a capacity of 4 petabytes. It also has 16.5 Pbyte of  tape systems for long term data archiving

Supercomputer cooled by hot water

Given the rapid developments in supercomputing, it is likely to forfeit its prominent place in the supercomputing league soon, but the technical specs are only one aspect of why SuperMUC is so interesting.

Two other factors are actually much more important: the new design and innovations in the monster’s cooling system.

“SuperMUC is composed of processors with a standard instruction set, also used in laptops, desktops and servers,”said Arndt Bode, head of the LRZ.  “Thus it can be much easier to program than many other supercomputers, whose special accelerators require a huge effort in the adaptation of programs.”

In the copper pipes specially treated water is passed up to the processors of the SuperMUC (Image: ZDNet.de).
In the copper pipes specially treated water is passed up to the processors of the SuperMUC (Image: ZDNet.de).

The cooling system doesn’t just work at the rack level, but cools individual processors and main memory directly with warm water at up to 55C. This “hot water cooling” system was developed by IBM and  SuperMUC is the first system to use it on an industrial scale.

“SuperMUC is a milestone in the low-energy, sustainable and environmentally friendly supercomputers, and the result of several years of research and development work at IBM,” said Martina Koederitz, chairman and CEO of IBM Germany, at the  the handover event.

IBM has long been a proponent of water-cooled systems, which take away heat more efficiently, and in a form which can be re-used elsewhere. For instance, the IBM-supplied Aquasar supercomputer, at Zurich’s Swiss Federal Institute of Technology supplies heat to surrounding buildings from its cooling system.

After the handover, IBM will continue to develop the hot water cooling technology: “Our plan is to integrate the cooling medium structures directly on the back of the processor to cool 3-D stacked chips,”said Bruno Michel, manager of Advanced Thermal Packaging at IBM Research, Zurich and one of the inventors of the SuperMUC cooling concept. “This could pave the way for massive reductions and performance improvements: the SuperMUC could  ultimately shrink to the size of a PC.”

The investment and operating costs of SuperMUC for five to six years is around €83 million, and it has received some Government subsidy for its innovative technology. The supercomputer will be used for scientific simulation for projects from across Europe, including biological work such as modelling the flow of blood in the body, or air through the lungs, and physics work such as investigating the role of dark matter in the universe .

This story originally appeared in German on ZDNet.de.  Translation by Peter Judge (and Google). 

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