BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In the world of supercomputers, practical
considerations like energy consumption have traditionally been
overshadowed by the emphasis on high performance. But as energy
costs have increased, computational scientists at the University at
Buffalo's Center for Computational Research (CCR) have found a way
to do more cutting-edge science while consuming less power.
A new energy-efficiency upgrade to CCR, located in UB's New York
State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences,
will realize energy savings of approximately $150,000 per year,
while boosting the center's total capacity from 13 Teraflops
(trillion floating operations per second) to 20 Teraflops.
The upgrade was made possible by a $300,000 contract from the
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)
and a $150,000 investment by UB.
"Current trends in data centers have led to a crisis in terms of
electrical and cooling capacity, where it is increasingly difficult
to meet the expanding power requirements of supercomputers," said
Thomas Furlani, Ph.D., director of CCR and principal investigator
on the NYSERDA contract. "Over the next year, CCR, a leading
academic supercomputing center, will replace one-quarter of its old
servers with state-of-the-art energy efficient servers that will
not only dramatically reduce CCR's power and cooling requirements,
but will also increase its compute capacity by more than 50
Installation of the new high efficiency servers will take place
during the spring 2009 semester.
The UB/NYSERDA investment will pay for itself in about three
years, with UB recovering its investment in the first year.
"This joint NYSERDA/UB demonstration project will raise the
public's awareness of the significant energy savings achievable in
data center upgrades," said Robert G. Callender, NYSERDA vice
president for programs. "Installation of high efficiency servers
and cooling technology in business and institutions is a critical
focus area for NYSERDA.
"Given the state's increasing dependence on information
technology, both as an economic engine and as an essential tool for
knowledge discovery, it is expected that the project will generate
substantial interest, as both academic, governmental and industrial
organizations struggle to balance the need for additional computing
and storage power with the costs associated with running
energy-hungry data centers," said Bruce Holm, executive director of
UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life
Sciences and UB professor of pediatrics, gynecology and obstetrics,
and pharmacology and toxicology.
According to Furlani, the increasing computational power offered
by rapid advances in processor design and fabrication has been
offset by limitations in the ability to power and cool the
high-density computer racks, even as demand for high performance
computing (HPC) infrastructure continually increases.
"Information technology in general and HPC in particular are
critical technologies for research, product development and
commerce," Furlani said. "Therefore, addressing these concerns is
of critical importance to the United States and its citizens,"
The project will replace a minimum of 256 of CCR's existing
high-performance computing servers with high-efficiency models that
not only conserve a significant amount of power and cooling, but
also expand the scientific, engineering and industrial outreach
capabilities of the center.
Furlani noted that this will be welcome news for the researchers
currently utilizing CCR because the center's computing resources
are typically heavily oversubscribed. He added that this increased
computing capacity will allow scientists and engineers from UB,
Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the Hauptman-Woodward Medical
Research Institute to carry out state-of-the-art research in such
areas as medicine, genomics, proteomics, chemistry, molecular
structure determination, aerospace engineering, combustion
modeling, medical informatics and chemical engineering.
"Access to the advanced computing infrastructure will not only
have a significant impact on science in Western New York but also
will result in the award of increased federal funding to support
this research," he said. "To date, more than $50 million in
external federal funding has been awarded to UB and Western New
York scientists carrying out research utilizing CCR's resources.
These research dollars have a significant economic impact in our
CCR staff and the scientists who use the center work closely
with the UB 2020 strategic strength in Information and Computing
The center's expanded computing power will also result in
significant economic development in Western New York by providing
its industrial partners with a competitive advantage they could not
otherwise afford to maintain on their own.
Currently, CCR partners with a diverse range of companies in the
region, providing them with access to the center's state-of-the-art
computing and visualization facilities.
The NYSERDA contract was competitively selected for funding
after being developed jointly by CCR and staff from UB's Facilities
and Planning Department, including Lawrence Poturalski, facilities
engineer; Kevin Thompson, director of facilities planning and
design, and Michael Dupre, associate vice president for university
facilities. From CCR, Matt Jones, Ph.D., CCR lead computational
scientist, served as co-PI.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority
(NYSERDA) was established by law in 1975 as a public benefit
corporation. NYSERDA provides energy-related technical and
financial packaging assistance to businesses and institutions to
promote energy efficiency and economic development, as well as
providing energy research and development programs that promote
safe and economical energy production efficiency technologies in
New York State.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system, and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.