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Going Petascale: The Supercomputing Frontier

An exterior view of the National Petascale Computing Facility where the Blue Waters Supercomputer is housed.

Set to go online some time in 2011, the Blue Waters Supercomputer is expected to establish a new standard for supercomputing power with an expected peak performance of 10 petaflops. The project included a data center designed from the ground up to support the specialized needs of Blue Waters. In this photo feature we'll provide an overview of the design goals, and illustrate the key features of this data center, known as the National Petascale Computing Facility (NPCF).

At a recent presentation at the University of Illinois site, Clayco's Kevin McKenna and Nova's Robert Pappas explained how the 17-month project coordinated multiple contractors, including EYP Mission Critical Facilities, Gensler, IBM and a workforce consisting of local and regional workers.

Building Information Modeling software was used to create a 3D model of the data center during the design phase. EYP Managing Principal Alda Licis said the principles driving the design process were:  1) cost vs. performance; 2) re-thinking reliability; 3) green technologies and energy; 4) first cost vs. total cost of ownership; 5) power and cooling; and 6) flexibility - designing for the unknown.

With LEED certification criteria being evaluated and planned throughout the project they are confident the data center will achieve Gold certification once online in 2011. The facility was built to withstand a F3 tornado and with a seismically resistant design. The property that the NPCF sits on is large enough to accommodate another 88,000 square foot, multi-floor facility if the need should arise.

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