LBNL Plans For the Exascale Data Center

An artist's illustration of the Computational Research and Theory (CRT) Facility being built by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, which is designed to support exascale supercomputing systems.

Last week, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) broke ground on a facility that will house its vision for the  supercomputer of the future. The 140,000 square foot data center will overlook the San Francisco Bay on a hill above the UC Berkeley campus. It may also provides the first view into exascale – the new frontier for supercomputing.

Planning for supercomputers that can surpass current petaflop levels to exaFLOPS (1,000,000,000,000,000,000 Floating Point Operations per Second ), the U.S. Department of Energy has recognized that energy consumption for powering that compute load is a particular challenge.

Exascale Power in a 20-Megawatt Footprint

The LBNL Computational Research and Theory (CRT) Facility will one day house exascale systems, and the government has already told vendors that an exascale system will not be able to use more than 20 megawatts of power. Japan’s 10.51 petaflop K Computer, ranked as the most powerful supercomputer last November, has a total power consumption of 12.66 megawatts.

The CRT building will allow Berkeley Lab to combine offices that are split between two sites and accomodate approximately 300 staff. The $112.9 million facility is expected to be completed in 2014. The data center will be large enough to house two exascale-sized supercomputers.

The CRT Facility will use outside air cooling and rely on the Bay area cool temperatures to meet its needs about 95 percent of the time. “The lowest level of the Berkeley building is a mechanical area that will be covered by a gradient that is used to pull in outside air”, said Katherine Yelick, associate lab director for computing sciences at LBNL.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu along with Berkeley Lab and UC leaders were speakers at the February 1 groundbreaking ceremony. The DOE is expected to deliver a plan to Congress on how to reach exascale computing by 2019 – 2020 and an expected cost.

Chu detailed a $27.2 billion budget request for 2013 Monday, emphasizing critical investments in innovation, job-creating clean energy technologies and commitment to the President’s national security strategy. Included was a request for $68.5 million in DOE funding for exascale science, and $21 million for data-instensive science investments. It sets a second quarter 2012 milestone for developing a joint plan for exascale research and development with the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

Here’s a video from the groundbreaking ceremony for the CRT.

For additional video, check out our DCK video archive and the Data Center Videos channel on YouTube.

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About the Author

John Rath is a veteran IT professional and regular contributor at Data Center Knowledge. He has served many roles in the data center, including support, system administration, web development and facility management.

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  1. John Shively, P.E.

    Steven Chu knows little about the geology of the site, or about its susceptibility to the major failure during the impending major earthquake on the Hayward fault as predicted by the geology professor Garniss Curtis. And Tom Bates played too much football with his helmet off.