Video: Inside IBM’s hot-water cooled supercomputer

IBM and the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) have announced the first commercially available hot-water cooled supercomputer.

According to Big Blue, the supercomputer is a powerful, high-performance system that will help researchers and industrial institutions solve some of the world’s most daunting scientific challenges.

The new LRZ “SuperMUC” system was built around IBM System x iDataPlex Direct Water Cooled dx360 M4 servers – boasting more than 150,000 cores to provide a peak performance of up to three petaflops, which is equivalent to the work of more than 110,000 personal computers. 

Put another way, three billion people using a pocket calculator would have to perform one million operations per second each to achieve equivalent SuperMUC performance.

In addition, a new form of hot-water cooling technology developed by IBM allows the system to be built 10 times more compact while substantially improve peak performance – consuming 40% less energy than a comparable air-cooled machine.

As Dr. Bruno Michel of IBM notes, 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 required cooling systems.

And that is precisely why Big Blue chose to address this particular challenge with hot-water cooling, which eliminates the need for conventional data center air cooling systems. Indeed, IBM’s hot-water cooling technology directly cools active components in the system such as processors and memory modules with coolant temperatures that can reach as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit, or 45 degrees Celsius.

“SuperMUC combines its hot-water cooling capability, which removes heat 4,000 times more efficiently than air, with 18,000 energy-efficient Intel Xeon processors,” said Michel.

“[Plus], the integration of hot-water cooling and IBM application-oriented, dynamic systems management software, allows energy to be captured and reused to heat the buildings during the winter on the sprawling Leibniz Supercomputing Centre Campus, for savings of one million Euros ($1.25 million USD) per year.”