The World’s Highest Data Center


This view shows lights glowing on some of the racks of the correlator in the ALMA Array Operations Site Technical Building. This photograph shows one of four quadrants of the correlator. The full system has four identical quadrants. (Photo Credit: ALMA, S. Argandoña)


ESO (THe European Southern Observatory) provided a key part of the correlator: a set of 550 state-of-the-art digital filter circuit boards was designed and built for ESO by the University of Bordeaux in France. With these Tunable Filter Banks, the light which ALMA sees can be split up into 32 times more wavelength ranges than in the initial design, and each of these ranges can be finely tuned. (Photo Credit: ESO)


This photograph shows just some of the many thousands of cables needed to connect the electronics racks of the correlator together. The full system requires 32,768 rack-to-rack digital interfaces and 16,384 cables to transport the signals between the racks. (Photo credit: ESO)


The ALMA Array Operations Site (AOS) Technical Building, the highest altitude high-tech building in the world, at an altitude of 5,000 metres on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes. This building houses the ALMA correlator supercomputer, enabling its many antennas, which are separated by up to 16 kilometres on the plateau, to work together as a single, giant telescope. (Photo Credit: ALMA, A. Caproni of ESO)


Enrique Garcia, a correlator technician, examines the system while breathing oxygen from a backpack. ALMA’s Array Operations Site is so high that only half as much oxygen is available as at sea level. (Photo Credit: ESO/Max Alexander)

Want more? For a video overview, continue to the next page.

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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