University of Tasmania

High-Performance Computing (HPC) is a powerful tool for researchers. HPC clusters are, in effect, many computers connected together with a network and centrally coordinated by software. These machines achieve enormous computing power by using hundreds of individual processors (cores) to break up huge computing projects into many smaller pieces and are able to analyze, model or simulate massive datasets. They require reliable, safe, efficient and low maintenance power and cooling systems to support the uninterrupted continuous operation.

The University of Tasmania (UTAS) which has more than 29,000 students and campuses in Hobart, Launceston and Burnie, is currently home to Australia’s fifth largest research data storage infrastructure and Nectar* research node in terms of traffic.

The University’s computing demand is largely driven by its climatic and ocean science research, including its Southern Ocean marine observation, as well as astronomy and health studies. To keep up with increasingly data-hungry work, UTAS is installing an additional HPC cluster to significantly add to its computing capacity.

With the University’s existing Data Centre at capacity, an initial expression of interest process was undertaken to local data centre providers. This was to determine whether collocating the HPC infrastructure into an existing data centre facility was both feasible and cost-effective, particularly given the density of the infrastructure. A.G. Coombs were able to provide comparative costings for the establishment of a dedicated facility on campus. Subsequently, a detailed feasibility study was undertaken by A.G. Coombs Advisory to confirm suitability of a new on campus location for the new Research Data Centre. Once a concept design was developed and key site selection criteria satisfied, the University tendered for the construction phase.

A.G. Coombs were successful in the tender process and awarded the work. A.G Coombs Projects’ specialist Data Centre team will deliver the conversion of the Science, Engineering and Technology building basement into a new Research Data Centre.

The facility incorporates 100 square metres of white tile space, which will house between 12 and 20 HPC racks. Whilst the rack count is small, the processing power of the new HPC cluster is high, with power densities reaching up to 60KW per system. This level of computing requires innovative, scalable and efficient power and cooling systems.

A.G. Coombs’ solution included the installation of a chilled water cooling system, that provides flexibility for cooling legacy research HPC systems (through traditional water cooled CRACs) and next generation HPC systems (through direct connect water cooling). The cooling system architecture also provides for future free-cooling connections, which will enable UTAS to leverage the benefits of Tasmania’s climate to cool the Data Centre, reducing energy consumption and ongoing operating costs. The power systems are also scalable, using Busway to distribute power to the HPC systems, whilst a modular UPS system, with generator backup provides protection against the risk of a mains power failure.

The construction of new computing facilities in existing, operational buildings is not without challenges. The A.G. Coombs design incorporated structural works to strengthen building structure, acoustic works to shield staff and students from plant noise and relocation of existing building services away from the critical space housing the new HPC systems. The construction process is underway during University hours and is being managed to minimise disruption to the University’s normal operations.

A.G. Coombs’ knowledge and experience in designing, constructing and supporting Data Centres is apparent and I’m looking forward to the new Data Centre, being a showcase facility that enables some exciting research projects in the future.

Nigel Williams, Manager, eResearch Infrastructure Services, Information Technology Services at the University of Tasmania

Project Overview

Project Name: New Supercomputing Cluster for University of Tasmania

Location: Hobart, Tasmania

Client: University of Tasmania

Year Completed: 2016

Project Type

Advisory, Design & Construct

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