NASA scientists are working on better understanding Earth's climate, our interaction with the sun, and how our planet interacts with the rest of the cosmos. Doing that takes some major calculations, and major calculations takes a major computer. So they've decided to select IBM's iDataPlex supercomputer as their vehicle of choice for cool simulations and model creations.
The supercomputer has some amazing capabilities, but what really got my interest piqued is how this computer aligns with the "Big Green" goals of IBM and how energy efficient a computer can be when it is doing 42 trillion calculations per second.
More Computations, Less Energy
Nope, that number is no exaggeration. IBM iDataPlex can perform 42 trillion calculations each second. The heavy weight capabilities are needed for simulating and analyzing the quickly growing pile of data collected by satellites about the Earth.
In order to perform at such high levels without sucking up massive amounts of energy, IBM has designed a way to improve the energy efficiency and cooling requirements of the 1,024 quad-core Intel Xeon processors. Yes, 1,024 is not an exaggeration either. The processors are being integrated with Discover, NASA's existing Xeon-based cluster.
"By nearly tripling Discover's performance, NASA scientists will be able to run models with higher resolution and greater fidelity to the underlying physical phenomena," said Dr. Phil Webster, NCCS Project Manager and Chief of the Computational and Information Sciences and Technology Office at Goddard Space Flight Center. "IBM's iDataPlex solution for NCCS will provide critical compute power for current and future NASA Earth and space science studies."
And they'll be able to do it in a relatively energy efficient way.
Improved Cooling System
The iDataPlex is designed for streamlining data center operations to save energy, and maximizes performance through improved cooling techniques, including a liquid-cooled panel on the back of the unit.
The cooling technique takes away the need for "cold rooms" for servers — they can operate in room-temperature environments. Essentially, they can provide five times the compute power while consuming 40% less energy than typical servers.
Not Just for NASA-Scale Projects
IBM's supercomputer isn't just for major efforts like NASA's project. It is intended also for big companies that operate tens of thousands of servers, and therefore need some big ways to cut energy costs and improve data center efficiency.