IBM Research - Zurich (July 2, 2010)
"IBM (NYSE: IBM) has delivered a first-of-a-kind hot water-cooled supercomputer to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich), marking a new era in energy-aware computing. The innovative system, dubbed Aquasar, consumes up to 40 percent less energy than a comparable air-cooled machine. Through the direct use of waste heat to provide warmth to university buildings, Aquasar's carbon footprint is reduced by up to 85 percent.
"Building energy efficient computing systems and data centers is a staggering undertaking. In fact, up to 50 percent of an average air-cooled data center's energy consumption and carbon footprint today is not caused by computing but by powering the necessary cooling systems to keep the processors from overheating – a situation that is far from optimal when looking at energy efficiency from a holistic perspective.
"The development of Aquasar began one year ago as part of IBM's First-Of-A-Kind (FOAK) program, which engages IBM scientists with clients to explore and pilot emerging technologies that address business problems. The supercomputer consists of special water-cooled IBM BladeCenter® Servers*, which were designed and manufactured by IBM scientists in Zurich and Boblingen, Germany...."
"Carbon footprint?" That IBM press release says an aspect of Aquasar is "sustainable," too. Only in this case, that buzzword makes sense in context.
What makes this special are the "micro-channel liquid coolers" that attach directly to the processors.
Sounds like a good idea, considering how much heat gets generated inside a computer. IBM says that water carries heat away about 4,000 times more efficiently than air does - which explains why automotive engines are often water-cooled.
More, about the Aquasar:
"IBM and ETH Zurich unveil plan to build new kind of water-cooled supercomputer"
IBM Research - Zurich (June 23, 2009)
"In an effort to achieve energy-aware computing, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH), and IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced plans to build a first-of-a-kind water-cooled supercomputer that will directly repurpose excess heat for the university buildings. The innovative system, dubbed Aquasar, is expected to decrease the carbon footprint of the system by up to 85% and estimated to save up to 30 tons of CO2 per year, compared to a similar system using today’s cooling technologies.1
Making computing systems and data centers energy-efficient is a staggering undertaking. In fact, up to 50% percent of an average air-cooled data center’s carbon footprint or energy consumption today is not caused by computing but by powering the necessary cooling systems to keep the processors from overheating—a situation that is far from optimal when looking at energy efficiency from a holistic perspective...."
"1 By making use of a physical carbon offset that fulfills criteria set forth in the Kyoto Protocol. The estimate of 30 tons CO2 is based on the assumptions of average yearly operation of the system and the energy for heating the buildings being produced by fossil fuels."
With all that "first-of-a-kind," "carbon footprint," "holistic" stuff, it's not hard to miss the nugget of fact: Quite a lot of energy is used to heat buildings. More is used to get heat out of computers so that they don't fry. It makes sense to (efficiently) pull heat from the computers, redirecting it to where we want the 'excess' energy.
Oh, well: there seems to be some rule that corporate press releases have to be filled with gibberish and buzzwords, along with some degree of pandering to the day's intellectual fashion. Maybe stockholders and board members like that sort of thing.
Whatever explains the linguistic fog surrounding these Aquasar announcements: it looks like IBM/ETH may be on to something useful here. Providing that the cooling system in Aquasar-style computers doesn't fail more often than air-cooled models.
The Lemming's looking forward to water-cooled computers: not so much because of the breathless 'save the planet' stuff, as the performance improvements we might see. Also lower power bills.
Somewhat-related posts about information technology:
- "These Toshiba Computers are Hot - Literally"
(September 4, 2010)
- "HP: Memristors on the Shelves in Maybe Three Years"
(September 1, 2010)
- "Never Heard of a BCI (Brain-Computer Interface)? You Will"
(April 20, 2010)
- "Germanium Laser, Optical Computing and the Human Condition"
(February 5, 2010)
- "Good News, Neural Devices Connect Brain, Computers: Bad News, Same Thing"
(July 11, 2009)