Next-gen data center

$12M power and cooling updates make IU even more competitive on high-performance computing research grants

The IU campuses look better than ever heading into the Bicentennial year. Renewed landscaping, signage and events commemorate the important milestone. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, important Bicentennial upgrades are happening at the IU Bloomington Data Center (BLDC).

The BLDC is undergoing power and cooling updates to coincide with the Bicentennial and to accommodate the debut of Big Red 200, which will be the fastest supercomputer in the state when it begins running in spring 2020. IU dedicated the new system as part of “A Day of Commemoration: IU's 200th Anniversary” on January 20, 2020.

Dan Miller in the diesel engine room giving a tour

Pretty cool. "The new cooling loop system uses warmer water to cool Big Red 200, so it is more energy efficient,” said Dan Miller, manager, Data Center Operations.

“High-power computing advancements are extremely important for a research university like IU. Not only does the Data Center house the infrastructure for campus, state, and international networks, it enables IU to compete for highly competitive federal research supercomputing contracts and grants," said Bradley C. Wheeler, vice president for information technology and chief information officer.

“High-performance computers, like Big Red 200, require more robust cooling, which is done by direct liquid cooling of all components. The new cooling loop system uses warmer water to cool Big Red 200, so it is more energy efficient,” said Dan Miller, manager, Data Center Operations.

The $12 million Data Center investment, approved by university trustees last April, will upgrade and expand the electrical and cooling infrastructure, enabling the university to be more competitive and more energy efficient. The upgrades adhere to the Uptime Institute’s recommendations for Tier-3 compliance.

Workers install the Big Red 200 supercomputer

Giving Indiana an edge. The Data Center's infrastructure upgrades were necessary for Big Red 200, seen here during its installation, and will give IU and the state a competitive boost. 

The build-out will be done in phases over the next few months, beginning with improvements needed to accommodate Big Red 200, housed in the BLDC Research Pod (RP). The RP infrastructure expansion will enable 3.2 megawatts (MWs) of computing capacity (without redundancy), including two new uninterruptable power supply (UPS) systems, new electrical distribution, and a new more energy-efficient cooling loop system.

McRobbie looks in the Big Red 200 stacks

Where the magic happens. Matt Link, IU associate vice president for research technologies, left, and IU President Michael McRobbie discuss the finer points of Big Red 200's cooling system during the dedication event. 

“High-performance computers, like Big Red 200, require more robust cooling, which is done by direct liquid cooling of all components. The new cooling loop system uses warmer water to cool Big Red 200, so it is more energy efficient,” said Dan Miller, manager, Data Center Operations.

The university’s Enterprise Pod (EP) infrastructure, which handles university information systems, IU Health, and computing for the state of Indiana, among others, is also getting an upgrade to accommodate one MW of computing capacity (with N+1 redundancy). The EP upgrades include a new UPS, electrical distribution, and chiller for increased cooling capacity, along with an additional 3350HP Caterpillar diesel engine generator. The new back-up generator handles 2.5 MW of power, bringing the total back-up capacity to 5.5 MW or 2.5 MW with full redundancy.

The infrastructure upgrades enable Big Red 200 and are a competitive boost to the university and the state, according to Dave Hancock, director for advanced cyberinfrastructure in IU’s Research Technologies division.

“Systems like Big Red 200 not only are direct investment into IU and its facilities, but also allow us to attract other funding from private endowments, foundations, the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, enabling us to bring those research dollars to the university to hire more researchers and to attract the top graduate students, all of which feeds back into the Indiana economy.”

About Data Center Operations

Indiana University operates two environmentally controlled Data Centers that provide redundant coverage and failover capabilities between the Bloomington and Indianapolis locations. The Data Centers support IU’s network infrastructure, information systems, and research and enterprise computing 24x7, 365 days a year. Comprised of 90,000 square feet, the Bloomington Data Center is a low-profile, single story bunker designed to protect the university’s critical computing and networking equipment against an F5 tornado and other environmental hazards. Three generators provide 5.5 megawatts (MW) of back-up power.

About Big Red 200

The fastest supercomputer in the state, Big Red 200 supports Indiana University’s advanced research in artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics, and scientific and medical research in areas such as climate change, addiction and cybersecurity. Big Red 200 is named for the IU Bicentennial and replaces the highly successful Big Red II Cray supercomputer, which began service in 2013. Big Red 200 is nearly 300 times faster than the original Big Red supercomputer from 15 years ago. Big Red 200 was dedicated on IU's Bicentennial anniversary on Jan. 20, 2020.