Aquasar is, according to IBM, a superefficient supercomputer that uses water cooling to achieve not only impressive performance but also to heat buildings at a university in Switzerland.


IBM has delivered the first Aquasar system to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. The concept was presented last year, but it has now installed the first final configuration that offers up to 10 Teraflops performance through two IBM BladeCenter servers. The specification list holds both Intel and IBM Cell processors, commonly found in the video game console PlayStation 3.

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Each blade server uses a specially designed water cooling kit of minimal size to cool processors and circuits with 60 degree (Celsius) water. This may seem inefficient, but it actually enough to keep the circuit below the allowed 85 degrees.

Water absorbs heat 4,000 times more efficiently than air and Aquasar consumes 40% less power than the equivalent air-cooled system. On top of that the excess heat is used to heat buildings around the University campus.

Building energy efficient computing systems and data centers is a staggering undertaking. In fact, up to 50 percent of an average air-cooled data center’s energy consumption and carbon footprint today is not caused by computing but by powering the necessary cooling systems to keep the processors from overheating – a situation that is far from optimal when looking at energy efficiency from a holistic perspective.

Aquasar will lower carbon oxide emission by 85%, which was a key element during the development of the system, a joint work between IBM and ETH in Zurich.


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