Just Mix Water with GPUs to Save 1,500 Tons of CO2 Emissions

by Roy Kim

Anytime you search on Google, “like” on Facebook, or “Tweet” on Twitter, you’re tapping into powerful server farms in huge, air-conditioned warehouses.

Supercomputers currently require a lot of energy to operate around the clock year-round, while keeping them cool enough so they don’t overheat and shut down.  The side effect of this is the production of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions – a major culprit of global warming.

Is power a big concern for your data center? What are you doing to improve energy efficiency? Let us know in the comments section below.

CO2 emissions from large server farms and high performance computing systems are on the rise, reaching the levels produced by the global airline industry. Worse, experts estimate emissions from server farms will quadruple by 2020.

Eurora supercomputer at CinecaSo, we’re thrilled to announce that NVIDIA’s GPUs have helped the new supercomputer at the Cineca facility in Italy hit an unprecedented milestone for energy efficiency. And in doing so, it is able to deliver 1,500 tons less CO2 output than a comparable CPU-based system.

High-density Supercomputer Hits New “Green” World Record

The “Eurora” supercomputer (pictured, left), partially funded by the PRACE 2nd Implementation Project and by Italian National Institute of Oceanography and Geophysics, was co-designed for power-saving performance. It features  innovative Eurotech servers with “hot water” cooling technology to maximize the energy efficiency of NVIDIA’s Tesla K20 accelerators, the highest performance, most energy-efficient GPUs ever built.

With this innovative approach, Eurora smashed the record held by the current no. 1 system on the Green500 list of the world’s most efficient supercomputers by more than 25 percent, delivering 3,150 megaflops per watt of sustained performance.  Here are some key system specs:

  • 64 compute nodes;
  • 2 Intel Xeon E5-series CPUs + 2 Tesla K20 GPU accelerators per compute node;
  • 110 teraflops Linpack performance;
  • 34.7 kilowatts.

The Eurotech system’s unique liquid cooling technology and compact design enables it to pack in 256 Tesla K20 accelerators and CPUs in a single rack, delivering 350 teraflops of peak performance.  A single rack would be ranked among the top 100 supercomputers in the world, according to the latest Top500 list.  With only nine racks, the system would deliver over 3.1 petaflops of performance, placing it in the top 10 of the most powerful supercomputers.

Why Hot Water is “Cooler” Than Cold Air

Eurora owes its energy efficiency record in part to the Tesla K20 accelerator, which is 4 times more energy efficient than a typical x86 CPU.  And by using warm water instead of chilled air to keep server components at optimal operating temperatures, the supercomputer saves additional power typically required for air conditioning.

So why not use cold water?  Because systems used to chill water are energy-hungry, negating some of the benefits of using liquid cooling solution in servers. Heated water produced from the supercomputer can be re-purposed to heat buildings or drive absorption chillers, and then returned back to the supercomputer at a cooler temperature (pictured, right).

Eurotech Aurora hot water cooling technologyOver its five year lifespan, Eurotech estimates that Cineca will save a whopping 2.5 million kilowatt-hours, or $500k savings in energy costs, while eliminating over 1,500 tons of CO2 emissions as compared to a typical CPU cluster of similar performance.

Energy has become the biggest limiting factor for many data centers and supercomputers.  Today, leading supercomputing centers, such as Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee and Cineca, are looking beyond traditional x86 CPUs to GPU accelerators to meet this daunting challenge:  delivering higher performance while keeping energy consumption in check.

We’re glad to do our part to make data centers a greener place.

Check out this slide deck for more info on the Eurotech system and its cooling technology:

Is power a big concern for your data center? What are you doing to improve energy efficiency? Let us know in the comments section below.