Aquila Takes Wraps Off Liquid-Cooled HPC Server

Aquila Takes Wraps Off Liquid-Cooled HPC Server

Aquila, a system provider based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has unveiled a new liquid-cooled server platform that offers one of the densest and most energy-efficient architectures in the market. The platform, known as Aquarius, uses a patented warm water cooling technology along with rack-level power distribution to minimize energy consumption and allow for very high levels of computational density.

The warm water cooling design was developed by Clustered Systems, whose IP is now licensed by Aquila for their Aquarius offering. Whereas most commercial direct liquid-cooled solutions just draw the heat from the processor and the memory DIMMs, this cold plate is designed to siphon off heat from any motherboard component dissipating more than a couple of watts. And since all the critical semiconductor components are protected from large temperature fluctuations, the company claims Aquarius will support a “near zero failure rate.” In addition, since fans are no longer needed, another common source of server downtime has been eliminated.

Apparently, Aquarius does this without all the plastic hoses, quick disconnects, and pumps that are common to most liquid-cooled designs. Instead, the water is plumbed, as you would do in a building or house, greatly lessening the source of leaks and other failures.

Rack-level power supplies are used to convert external AC power to DC power, eliminating the need for individual power supplies for each server and making power distribution highly efficient. According to Bob Bolz, who heads up the HPC and Data Center Business group at Aquila, Aquarius can maintain a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) below 1.05, and probably closer to 1.03. In fact, since they have eliminated fans and individual power supplies, the server power reaches 95 percent efficiency. “We are looking at being able to build a liquid-cooled data center that is about as efficient as possible with current technology,” Bolz told TOP500 News.

The Aquarius team estimates that the design will allow customers to realize a 50 percent energy savings compared to a similarly equipped air-cooled system with conventional power supplies. As a result, they estimate that the additional cost of the Aquarius rack can be recovered within its first year of operation.

Bolz says the design is even 35 percent more efficient than other warm water cooled solutions, such as those of Asetek and CoolIT. In fact, he believes the efficiency of their solution is on par with that of immersion cooling technology like what Green Revolution Cooling offers, but without the attendant problems of dealing with big messy vats of diaelectric fluids, not to mention the annoying warranty voiding issues.

An HPC system with a version of this cooling technology was delivered to the DOE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory by Clustered Systems in early 2013. The SLAC cluster, ran for 18 months straight, 24/7, with zero failures. More recently, Aquila demonstrated the technology at Sandia National Laboratories. Despite some skepticism from the lab personnel, Bolz says they were able to run Linpack on Intel Xeons at full tilt with Turbo Boost enabled, while keeping the core temperatures at least 15 degrees below the upper limit. Being able to do that on a consistent basis means a $2,000 CPU can be made to perform like a $2,800 one.

Such efficiencies in power and cooling enables Aquarius’s highly dense configuration. The Open Compute Platform (OCP) rack design allows for three dual-socket Intel Xeon servers in a 1U space and up to 108 servers per rack. Despite that density, there is still room for a couple of 2.5-inch hard drives or SSDs in each node.

The hardware itself is pretty standard. The Aquarius server supports two Intel Xeon E5-2600 (v3 or v4) processors and up to 256 GB of DDR4 memory per server. That adds up to 3,888 cores and 27.7 TB per rack in its maximum configuration. A half-height PCIe Gen 3 slot is available for devices like networks adapters, so both Intel Omni-Path and Mellanox InfiniBand are supported.

Accelerators are a problem though, since the PCIe setup is too small for a full-width device. That’s a shame, considering they can be the hottest components in an HPC server and would really benefit from liquid cooling. Bolz says they are looking to support Intel’s Knights Landing Xeon Phi in a future product, since these processors can be socketed onto a standard Intel motherboard and are thus amenable to their cold plate technolgy. There’s also hope for NVIDIA’s P100 with NVLink since it can use a mezzanine card instead of PCIe, but there are no standard board configurations as there are for Xeon and Xeon Phi processors.

Aquila’s first customer target looks to be the DOE, and especially those labs interested in advanced power and cooling technology for HPC gear, like Sandia and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). NREL, in particular, would seem to be a natural customer, given its objective of using energy efficient computing infrastructure.

Successful proof points at DOE labs would go a long way to establish the platform for wider use in HPC datacenters. The bigger end game, though, is cloud providers and other hyperscale types of customers where power and cooling concerns are at the forefront of infrastructure purchasing decisions. In these environments, a 50 percent energy reduction can translate in tens of millions of dollars per year. Aquila may be the new kid on the block, but if it can demonstrate savings of that magnitude, it will surely get the attention of the Googles and eBays of the world.

Aquarius systems will begin shipping in the third quarter of 2016. Anyone interested in their offering will get a chance for a closer look in November at the Supercomputing Conference (SC16) in Salt Lake City, Utah, where Aquila will be exhibiting the new platform.

Read full article here

Author: Michael Feldman
Title of News feed: News | TOP500 Supercomputer Sites
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About Bruce Whealton

Bruce Whealton was born in 1966 in Southington, CT. Southington is a rather "rural" in parts, specifically the parts of the town where Bruce lived. Even other persons in the same town said he "lived in the woods." That is to say that the neighborhood where Bruce lived had woods, hills, a small mountain (Ragged Mountain) on 3 sides of it, and the forth side of the neighborhood was bordered by an Apple Orchard. One could see most of the town from the top of Ragged Mountain, as well as surrounding towns. The nearest store was definitely not in walking distance. Even the high school or junior high school, which were both closer to home than any stores, was still quite a distance away. Bruce does remember walking home from the Junior High School (DePaolo Junior High School ) and the High School (Southington High School), although, he cannot remember why he would have done that as it would have taken at least an hour to walk that distance, if not more. After high school, Bruce attended the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia, Tech), in Atlanta, GA. One might think that living in a town in CT would have exposed Bruce to the big city of New York, which isn't that far away, as CT is a small state and it is bordered by the state of NY. However, Bruce did not have much exposure to NY. He left CT at 18 to start at Georgia Tech, in Atlanta, which was quite a culture shock, going from a rural type of environment to being at Georgia Tech which is practically located in downtown Atlanta. While attending Georgia Institute of Technology, he worked as a co-op student at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in Massachusetts. That means that starting with his second year, he would alternate, one quarter going to school and one quarter going to DEC, many miles away. He worked with a team that was developing an Expert System, which utilized programming languages and paradigms of Artificial Intelligence. In 1989, Bruce Whealton received his BSEE Degree (Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering) with a specialization in Computer Engineering. His first employment was more in the area of Software Engineering than Computer Engineering but that's just being technical. That first job was at the National Science Foundation at Fort Gordon, in Augusta, GA. The job involved maintaining and programming a network of desktop computers that all communicated with and shared data with a larger VAX mini-computer. Bruce Whealton has been working on the web and the Internet for about 20 years. The first half of that time, it was just a hobby as he had other full-time employment. For the past 10 years or so, Bruce Whealton has worked as a Web Designer/Developer and Software Engineer... always eager to learn and expand his skills and expertise, keeping up to date with the latest trends and technologies, as well as expanding his skills in various programming languages and other Software Engineering skill areas.
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