Make Room for Stampede: TACC Expands Data Center for New Supercomputer

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at The University of Texas at Austin today announced that it is expanding the center's current high performance computing (HPC) data center to house the new Stampede supercomputer, which will be built in late 2012 and go into full production to the national science community in January 2013.

The University of Texas at Austin is funding the $56 million project in support of TACC's ongoing leadership and research activities in advanced computing for the national open science community. The project includes the expansion of the machine room and the raised floor area, a separate building to include the transformer yard, a location to house the chillers, compressors and cooling towers, a tank for thermal energy storage, and an additional seminar room for training. The money will also pay for the long-term upgrades to support the infrastructure of future projects.

Construction on the new data center started on October 28 and is expected to be complete in July 2012.

"Stampede is larger than any other supercomputer we've deployed and we need more space to accommodate it," said Dan Stanzione, deputy director, TACC. "We're expanding the existing data center where we already have a significant footprint of 4,000 square feet, and we're adding 11,000 square feet plus mechanical and support space."

Because they focus on enabling research, HPC data centers have a very high power and cooling density, typically much higher than an average commercial data center.

Says Stanzione, "In the academic HPC environment, we make a different set of tradeoffs than a business that would require a commercial data center. We're less concerned about 100 percent reliability and more concerned about the capabilities we can offer when things are running the other 98 percent of the time. We don't do as much as the commercial data centers in terms of redundancy, but we're much more aggressive in terms of the amount of power per square foot, for instance."

Bill Harris with HMG and Associates, Inc., an engineering design firm working on the project, said, "One of the unique challenges for Stampede is to provide cooling for an HPC data center that has a high heat load of 620 watts per square foot and that requires 2,500 tons of cooling, which is extremely concentrated for the small area of the room."

TACC's new data center will use some innovative new technologies to achieve higher efficiency such as thermal energy storage. "In addition to our regular chillers, we'll use a storage tank of one million gallons of chilled water and turn off all the chillers to save power during peak demand time. We'll use extra power at night and less during the day to spread the demand so the utilities can run more efficiently," Stanzione said.

Using this technique will reduce power usage by about 20 percent at the most expensive time of day, which should save $200,000 per year in operating costs, Stanzione said. In addition, it will reduce the stress on the city power grid.

The Stampede supercomputer will initially use about five megawatts of power. After upgrades, the total power of Stampede and other systems in the data center will be approximately 12 megawatts.

As part of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) "eXtreme Digital" (XD) program, Stampede will be built by TACC in partnership with Dell and Intel to support the nation's scientists in addressing the most challenging scientific and engineering problems. The estimated investment will be more than $50 million over four years. The Stampede project may be renewed in 2017, which would enable four additional years of open science research on a successor system.

When Stampede is deployed in 2013, it will be the most powerful system in the NSF XD environment, currently the most advanced, comprehensive, and robust collection of integrated digital resources and services enabling open science research in the world.

Note to editors: A video of Dan Stanzione talking about the project is available.