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Is Tsubame-Kfc a Game-Changer?

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The TSUBAME-KFC system at Tokyo Institute of Technology.

The TSUBAME-KFC system at Tokyo Institute of Technology immerses its servers and GPUs in dielectric mineral oil.

Credit: NVIDIA

Japanese researchers have developed the TSUBAME-KFC supercomputer, a system that combines two Intel Xeon ES-2620 processors with four NVIDIA Tesla K20X graphics processing engines per node. The system is capable of more than 150 trillion floating point operations per second (TFLOPS), making it the 311th fastest supercomputer in the world.

Virginia Tech professor Kirk W. Cameron, co-founder of the Green500 List, says TSUBAME-KFC is unique because instead of using air-cooling systems to keep the supercomputer from overheating, all 2,620 cores are submerged in dielectric mineral oil, which can absorb heat up to 1,200 times more efficiently than air. The oil enables the system to achieve densities previously difficult without highly efficient, expensive air-cooling systems.

In November 2013, TSUBAME-KFC became the first supercomputer to surpass 4,000 MFLOPS per watt efficiency, claiming the top spot on the Green500 list of energy-efficient supercomputers.

The TSUBAME-KFC system is a prototype to test the feasibility of larger liquid-cooled systems. Cameron says TSUBAME-KFC marks a significant increase in infrastructure and system efficiencies. He says an industry-wide shift from building the biggest systems to building the biggest systems possible within a power limit could make liquid cooling a more reasonable option for operators to make better use of the available watts.

From Scientific Computing
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