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Mississippi State boosts power with liquid-cooled 'Shadow'

Mississippi State University already boasted a lot under the hood when it comes to supercomputing power, and it is boosting that with a new, liquid-cooled model.

MSU’s High Performance Computing Collaboratory (HPC2) will soon be home to a CS300-LC cluster supercomputer manufactured by Cray Inc.

Named “Shadow,” the new system will serve as the primary high-performance computing asset for shared research.

The installation is expected to be completed by December. Once operational, Shadow will be 10 times faster than the university’s previous fastest system, but consume far less energy.

According to the company, the CS300-LC system features an innovative, liquid-cooled design that uses warm water heat exchangers instead of chillers to directly cool the computer’s processors and memory, allowing for a more efficient removal of system heat.

“This new cooling technique is revolutionary. The water used to cool the system is the temperature of the outside air, up to 104 degrees, with almost no additional air conditioning required,” said Trey Breckenridge, director of high performance computing. “There are a few systems doing this in Canada and northern Europe, but as far as I know, we are the first to ever try this in a subtropical environment.”

Shadow will be housed at the HPC2 facility in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park adjacent to the MSU campus in Starkville.

“Shadow achieves its tremendous computing power largely due to the use of 260 new Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors. They are so powerful that two of them, which combined are smaller than a loaf of bread, are as fast as our fastest computer just 10 years ago — and that system was the size of six refrigerators,” Breckenridge said.

The supercomputer will support research for the land-grant institution’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, Center for Computational Sciences, Geosystems Research Institute, Center for Battlefield Innovations and Institute for Genomics, Biocomputing and Biotechnology, as well as the MSU-led Northern Gulf Institute.

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