Watching hurricanes

Data center design titbits

Broken CD with wrench

America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) put the cart before the horse to some degree when purchasing a new supercomputer to track hurricanes.

As it was packed to the rafters in its existing data centers, NOAA built a new center to house this new 383 TF (teraflops) box. However, it didn't know exactly what to design into the new building since it hadn't awarded the contract for the system yet.

This Data Center Knowledge article outlines some of choices they made and supplies some interesting details.

The first fun fact is that they have enough power capacity to handle up to 33 kilowatts per rack - which is fairly generous by today's standards. They will use outside air cooling for roughly 40 per cent of the year and traditional chillers to handle the rest of the load. This will save roughly $800,000 annually in energy costs.

Part of this savings arises from the use of rear-door liquid cooling on some, but not all, of the racks. What caught my eye was their use of a 32-foot tall 'thermal storage tank' that will hold 25,000 gallons of 55°F water.

This vast amount of cold water will provide only about 10 minutes of emergency cooling in case of a power outage or chiller failure. I'd expect that this 'cold battery' would provide a bit more than 10 minutes of cooling, but perhaps this estimate is assuming a pump failure as well. ®

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