Are you feeling like you do not get to see data centers enough these days? Perhaps you do not get to see supercomputers on a regular basis. If you want to see them, there is a way that is similar to how you view real estate remotely. The Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas Austin got a Matterport camera commonly used for real-estate walkthroughs and showed off its supercomputer facility. One can see Stampede2 (#25 on November 2020 Top500) well and there is a glimpse of Frontera visible (#9.)
TACC Supercomputer Facility Walkthrough
For those who want to explore themselves, here is the Matterport link:
Here is what the Matterport floorplan looks like:
Perhaps headlining the tour is the 9th largest supercomputer, Stampede2.
One may think this is the only supercomputer, or perhaps the only supercomputer emblazoned by Texas imagery. It is not. One other example is that we can see a Cray/Intel Lonestar5 machine.
We are going to let our readers explore for themselves, but there is a lot there.
There are some cool technologies on display. For example, we have GRC liquid immersion cooling chambers. We can see hoists above to help service machines that are lifted vertically instead of racked/ de-racked horizontally.
Something else we can see is that it appears as though the TACC is taking a “trust but verify” approach to claims that the liquid immersion tanks will not leak. We can also imagine this helps with splashes when removing hardware and with weight distribution.
For those who want to know what some of the network aggregation looks like for a supercomputer, here is a chassis switch with the various fiber runs.
Here is a nice view of CoolIT cooling systems at the TACC. This is just opposite some of the GRC immersion cooling tanks shown above.
There is even a picture of the “Discovery” section which is where the TACC tests new technology.
Especially with travel restrictions, fewer people are getting to see these types of installations first-hand. This is a great way to show not just a supercomputer, but an entire supercomputing facility off.
Overall, this is a cool new look at a supercomputing center. For those stuck at home that wants to see a research data center (production Internet data centers look much different), this is a great opportunity. It is also a great opportunity for STH readers to take a moment over the weekend and share perhaps what they do with kids to get them interested in STEM. We know many readers cannot take children to data centers (and for many good reasons.)
We fully expect someone will say that the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, or Centro Nacional de Supercomputación also has a Matterport tour and that it is a much more photogenic center. For those who do not know, in what may be one of the most “Barcelona” projects ever, this is a supercomputer in an old church.
The purpose of this piece was simply to show this is available. Perhaps it is a good opportunity to bookmark the walkthroughs and spend a few minutes showing this to your kids while secretly “nerding out” remotely yourself. Thank you to the folks at the TACC for this opportunity to explore remotely.