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Advanced Computing, Mathematics and Data
Research Highlights

May 2008

Innovative "FRED" Software Lays Solid Foundation for More Energy-Efficient Data Centers

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed an innovative, real-time software tool, "FRED" for Fundamental Research in Energy-efficient Data Centers. The software will enhance the ability of the nation's data centers to meet the demand of businesses for increased computing capacity efficiently and cost effectively.

Data centers face a situation where they are consistently asked to increase computing capacity to meet growing business needs, thus increasing power and cooling demands.  All at a time when energy costs to run the data center are also on the rise.  In 2006, data centers consumed 61 billion kWh, 1.5 percent of all U.S. electricity generated, double the amount used in 2000; an annual growth rate of 12 percent at current efficiency trends. Currently, power conversion and cooling systems consume more than half of that load.  Leadership class facilities face another problem—next-generation exascale systems are currently estimated to require 150-200 Megawatts of power just for the servers, more than an order of magnitude greater than the largest machines today.

"FRED will enable the creation and operation of 'holistic' data centers that will be more energy efficient to better meet the need for computing capacity," said Andrés Márquez, director of the Energy Smart Data Center project at PNNL, a multiyear project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to demonstrate advanced engineering and energy-efficient electronics and ideas related to high-performance computing.  "Data centers designed and built without detailed knowledge of the information technology to be deployed can lead to over- or under- provisioned floor space, over-engineered or unsuitable cooling capabilities, and under-provisioned power capabilities," he said.

FRED consists of a monitoring system, data collector, central database, and web-based graphical user interface client.  The software measures a variety of parameters such as chilled water flow rates, temperatures and electrical power usage.  FRED's underlying technology is based on PNNL's experience in developing power plant, distribution, and facility monitoring and diagnostic systems for applications ranging from nuclear power generation to building management to public housing.

The FRED software currently is used to capture, monitor, analyze and store data from the Energy Smart Data Center's test bed facility, located at the William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL), a DOE national scientific user facility located at PNNL.  The test bed is a first-of-its-kind center of excellence dedicated to developing more efficient methods of managing energy use and associated cooling of data centers.  The test bed occupies a separate, 700 square feet room adjacent to the Molecular Science Computing Facility (MSCF) high performance computing center. "The purpose of the test bed is to monitor the energy and cooling of a top-ranked computer in a closed environment," Márquez said.  "The test bed will provide a fully integrated program that addresses the critical power and heat management issues facing leadership-class computing."

Acknowledgments: The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory strengthens U.S. scientific foundations for innovation by creating computational capabilities to solve problems using extreme-scale simulation and petascale data analytics.

Sponsor: DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration Advanced Simulation and Computing Campaign.

Research Team: Andrés Márquez, Stephen Elbert, Darrel Hatley, Daniel Johnson, Landon Sego, Thomas Seim, Daniel Sisk, and Blanche Wood.

EMSL Involvement: The Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory is a Department of Energy national scientific user facility located at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory that provides integrated experimental and computational resources for discovery and technological innovation in the environmental molecular sciences to support the needs of the Department of Energy and the nation.

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