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SCC11: Meet Team Texas

Adds mineral oil in bid for cluster crown

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Team vid What can you say about the University of Texas Longhorns that they haven’t already said about themselves?

They’ve got swagger for sure, and their LINPACK-topping success in 2010 showed that they can back up at least part of it. The Longhorns have brought the most attention-grabbing entry in Student Cluster Competition history with their 2011 deep-fried cluster.

What they’ve done is immerse all four of their servers (11 nodes with 132 Intel Xeon cores) in a vat of mineral oil. This gives them very effective cooling and saves enough energy to allow them to drive anywhere from 5-15 per cent more cores.

The energy savings arise from being able to remove system fans – each of which could draw as much as 5 amps (theoretical maximum under extremely harsh conditions). The oil circulation and heat dissipation takes some juice to be sure, but it’s still less than what it would take to drive the various system and power supply coolers.

Check out the video to get a better look at the Texas hardware and the guys who pulled it together. Upcoming vids will show them removing and replacing nodes when their initial cabling proved to less than optimal.

As the competition progresses, we’ll see if their bold experiment pays off or if it just ends up as an ill-conceived, oily mess. I’m really happy to see a team take a chance on new technology – it’s that kind of spirit that drives the tech industry. ®

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