HP, Intel to Power World’s Greenest Data Center

Hewlett-Packard and Intel have been selected to power a new petascale HPC system, designed to be the world’s most energy efficient, which will reside at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

And there’s a nifty energy-saving twist, too: Like the SuperMUC—Europe’s most powerful supercomputer—the NREL HPC system will use warm water to cool the servers. That water will then be transported to the ESIF offices and lab space, where it will serve as the primary heat source. Excess heat can also be exported to adjacent buildings and other areas of the NREL campus.

The $10 million HPC system will reside at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF), currently under construction on the Golden, Colorado, campus. The Alliance for Sustainable Energy operates NREL on behalf of the Department of Energy.

The first phase of the operation will begin in November 2012 and reach “petascale” capacity by mid-2013, capable of generating a million billion (10^15) operations per second. The new system is designed for advancing materials research and a deeper understanding of biological and chemical processes, according to the NREL, with the eventual goal of developing clean energy technologies including solar photovoltaics, wind energy, electric vehicles, buildings technologies, and renewable fuels.

“This unique capability sets NREL apart in our ability to continue groundbreaking research and analysis,” NREL Director Dan Arvizu wrote in a statement. “In partnership with HP and Intel, NREL is acquiring one of the most energy efficient, high performance computer systems in the world for our research.”

According to the agency, the data center is designed to be the world’s most energy efficient, with a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of at least 1.06. That’s a flashy number—perhaps not as low as Intel’s own oil-based server cooling experiment, but low nevertheless.

Eventually, the NREL system will include Intel’s sexy new Intel Phi coprocessors, providing a computational boost. The HPC system will be deployed in two phases that include scalable HP ProLiant SL230s and SL250s Generation 8 (Gen8) servers based on eight-core Intel Xeon E5-2670 processors. The second phase will include new servers based on 22nm Ivy Bridge architecture based Intel Xeon processors and the Xeon Phi.

All told, Intel will supply approximately 3,200 Intel Xeon processors as well as 600 new Intel Xeon Phi co-processors, Intel said.  Among the NREL’s projects is the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) application, about a half million lines of code that NREL ported to the Xeon Phi architecture in just a few days.

“The idea is to make wind power compelling from a cost-of-energy standpoint,” said John Michalakes, an HPC scientist with NREL, in a statement. “Modeling the wind energy system from meteorological to turbine scales means squeezing every last ounce of performance from our simulations, and the ability to develop and optimize using the same software ecosystem as the host Intel Xeon processor is a tremendous boost for application performance, scaling and programmer productivity.”