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Interview: Asetek Rides Rapid Adoption of Liquid Cooling for HPC

The HPC industry’s expanded use of liquid cooling was evident at the recent ISC 2015 conference in Frankfurt. To learn more, we caught up with Steve Branton from Asetek.

insideHPC: What’s new with liquid cooling from Asetek?

steveSteve Branton: The first thing that we’re going to talk about is the increased availability through our partners. And then we want to talk a little bit about where we’ve deployed the system. And finally, we’re going to talk a little bit about new technology. So, let’s start with where they’re at.

So, as you know, we’ve been partnered with Cray for some period of time. They’ve actually a number of systems which we’ll talk about here in the next segment. We’re cooling Xeon Phis, regular Xeon processors, and SXM cards from Nvidia. This product is in its second generation, so we’re moving along with deployments and expanding that relationship.

insideHPC: And along on those lines, I understand you got a new customer that’s cooling new products with Asetek.

Steve Branton: Yes, we do. That’s Fujitsu. And, we announced that relationship some months ago. At this show, we’re exhibiting that product for the first time.

The new system from Fujitsu is called the CX400 and what we have here is a system that’s got four nodes in it. Four, half-width 1U nodes that can be either dual CPU nodes or we can do K40 plus CPU or Xeon Phi accelerators. So, we will be able to talk about the deployment of this system at SC15.

So, one other thing we’re seeing coming in the market is new product from Intel called Knights Landing. It has a much bigger package and higher wattage. So, we are in the process of designing systems for that processor.

We’re also looking at cooling the new Power8 chip from IBM. One of the interesting things about the Power8 system is that it’s overclockable. So, in its native state this is a 260 watt processor. They’ll be able to overclock this to 400 watts, which is going to really require liquid cooling for high performance.

insideHPC: 400 watts? So, that’s really going to need liquid cooling!

Steve Branton: It is. So, that’s really exciting from an industry perspective as we’re seeing higher power wattage parts come out from Intel and their competition, which we see as something that’s going to drive the HPC market towards liquid-cooling.

insideHPC: I want to ask you about some deployments. I heard some customers are upgrading. Some of your early customers. That’s great news isn’t it?

Steve Branton: Yes, they are. Since we last talked, our largest customer has upgraded from 10 racks to a 28-rack system. That center was constrained from a cooling perspective, so they were able to install liquid-cooling and spend about half as much on cooling as they would have if they’ve expanded their air-cooling system. So, they were able to get more compute and more cycles by doing that.

We have a similar story at MSU where they deployed their five rack cluster. Again, this was an air-cooled constrained data-center, and they were able to expand at a lower cost to buy more compute. Now they’ve actually added a second four-rack cluster to that system. They’re now on number 145 on the TOP500 list.

Interestingly enough, they’re seeing about 10 percent improvement in speed with liquid-cooling over what they would have seen with their air-cooling system. So, that was a pleasant surprise for us.

And then, while we’re here—NREL, which is our oldest deployment has now begun to add additional small systems to their data center and they’ve purchased additional liquid-cooling systems for that data center. They are operating at a PUE of 1.06, and they’re doing that by having it all liquid cooling datacenter. So, we’re supporting that infrastructure we build out.

And then, finally we have a deployment at UiT, which is the University of Tromso in Norway, north of the arctic circle. They can throw away all the heat they want for free but, they have students that will get cold without heating. So, they want to take that energy that they’ve used to run their compute then reuse it to heat up their buildings. So, they get double duty out of all the energy that they consume. And they’ve gone from a single rack cluster to a six rack cluster to retrofit of HPC here and there.

insideHPC: Seeing this with repeat customers, your early adapters are coming back, is it fair to say this is a matured technology coming from Asetek now?

Steve Branton: Absolutely. Liquid cooling is a mature datacenter technology. That’s very exciting.

Watch the video interviewSee our Full Coverage of ISC 2015

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