DUG Installs Immersive Cooling for Bubba Supercomputer in Houston

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Cooling tanks under construction for the Bubba supercomputer

While immersive cooling has been around since at least the Cray-2 supercomputer, we don’t know of any large-scale HPC deployments beyond a few test machines such as the Tsubame-KFC in Japan and the CRC cluster at TACC. Until now.

Today DownUnder GeoSolutions (DUG) announced that tanks are arriving at Skybox Houston for “Bubba,” its huge geophysically-configured supercomputer. Part of a unique cloud service tailored specifically to the geophysics community, called DUG McCloud, the supercomputer will be housed in a purpose-built exascale compute facility in Houston.

DUG will cool the massive Houston supercomputer using their innovative immersion cooling system that has computer nodes fully submerged in specially-designed tanks filled with polyalphaolefin dielectric fluid. This month, the first of these 722 tanks have been arriving in shipping containers at the facility in Houston. The specially-designed tanks have spent many months in crates at sea, traveling thousands of kilometers across continents, through storms and plain sailing weather.”

Construction began on the Texas facility in late 2018. After initial setbacks caused by winter storms, work has continued on DUG McCloud at a remarkable pace ever since.

In February, along with immense concrete slabs for the facility’s 10 enormous cooling towers, 20 km (13 miles) of cooling pipes were installed for Bubba, and enough power boards and air handlers to line the entire 50m (165ft) north wall.

We are beyond excited with how well the construction of the Houston facility is going,” said DUG’s Managing Director, Dr Matthew Lamont. “In a few short months we have gone from mud to 6-metre high pipe stands for our cooling towers, and from an empty room to rows of our familiar orange, custom-made DUG tanks. Everything is on track and we plan to officially launch in May.”

DUG McCloud will also use the largest installation of Intel Knights Landing (KNL) nodes in the world. DUG has been the largest commercial user of the now-discontinued KNL wafers for several years, and has ordered all 40,000 of the remaining Phi Knights Landing inventory from Intel.

The initial DUG McCloud data hall has 15 MW of power, which will house a 250 petaflop (single-precision) machine once fully installed. A second identical data hall is available when needed, to grow to 500 PF.

As demand grows, power, room, and plans are in hand to expand the facility beyond an exaflop, and DUG hopes it will be the first U.S. exascale supercomputing system.

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