New build­ing for su­per­com­puter at Pader­born Uni­ver­sity

 |  Research

Paderborn. At Paderborn University, the Bau- und Liegenschaftsbetrieb des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen (BLB NRW, the Construction and Real Estate Company of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia) is building a new high-performance computer center that will host one of the most powerful computers in Germany. The shell of the building is now complete.

Paderborn University gets a new supercomputer: The Bau- und Liegenschaftsbetrieb des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen (BLB NRW) is building a new high-performance computer center for the university. Next year, a state-of-the-art computer will be installed in a 340 square meter computer room, which will provide the university with a considerable expansion of its infrastructure for its top-level research in computational sciences. The shell of the new building is now complete. A current focus of research in Paderborn is the development of new materials for the production of hydrogen by splitting water with sunlight (photocatalysis). The high-performance computer is used for this and other applications as a virtual microscope, so to speak. Computer simulation has made it possible to increase the efficiency of water splitting to record levels and to understand and further optimize the timing of chemical reactions at the atomic level. In the future, this research will be intensified under even better conditions.

Since a classical topping-out ceremony to present the shell during the Corona pandemic is not possible, responsible persons from BLB NRW and the University guided journalists around the site this morning. "I am incredibly proud of the team of BLB NRW and also of the planners and craftsmen who are involved in the construction of this special building for the University of Paderborn," said a delighted Wolfgang Feldmann, head of the Bielefeld branch of BLB NRW, who informed the crowd. Simone Probst, Vice President for Operations at Paderborn University, emphasized the importance of the supercomputer for the university: "We are very pleased to provide our scientists with the latest state of the art in computer technology. With the new data center and the second expansion stage of the Noctua computer next year, we can manage to take a pioneering role in the field of efficient and innovative HPC (high-performance computing) systems worldwide and thus position ourselves even better in top international research".

The two-storey research building with a total floor space of around 2,500 square meters consists of a large computer room at its core. This is where the high-performance computer and its possible expansion stages will be installed in the future. In addition to the computer room, an office area and an IT workshop for the employees of the PC² (Paderborn Center for Parallel Computing) as well as meeting, laboratory and training rooms for the users of the high-performance computer will be created. A special feature of the building is the extremely powerful and at the same time energy-saving cooling system with a capacity of over 2 MWatt, which ensures that the supercomputer can always operate in the optimum temperature range.

Prof. Christian Plessl, Chairman of the Board of PC², comments: "Cooling high-performance computers is technically complex, but also offers a high potential for energy savings. In the new data center, only 1/3 of the previously needed energy is required for cooling compared to the previous level. This is made possible by direct water cooling of the computers. Due to the use of high water temperatures of more than 35°C, no cooling by cooling units (compressors) are necessary even on hot summer days. In winter, the waste heat can be used to heat the buildings on the university campus".

While the interior construction of the building is already in full swing with the installation of the technical equipment, the order for the 10 million Euro high performance computer has not yet been placed. Those responsible are waiting for the latest possible date to ensure that the most up-to-date and powerful system available on the market is installed.

The Federal Government is supporting this research construction with funds of 7.55 million euros in accordance with a resolution of the Joint Science Conference (GWK).

The first phase of the NOCTUA system was put into operation at the university as early as 2018. The new building at Mersinweg will be constructed for subsequent HPC systems and their expansion stages. A major requirement for the new data center is that, due to the expandability and modularity of the infrastructure, the data center can be used over several generations of HPC systems and these can be replaced during operation. The procurement of the HPC system and the construction of the building are coordinated in such a way that a smaller computer system of the first phase was already procured in 2018 and has been put into operation in the existing computer room in building O at Paderborn University. The installation of the second phase of the computer system will take place after completion of the planned research building in 2021.

Key specifications of the data new building:

Gross floor area: approx. 2,500 m²

Data center and technical installations: approx. 1,500 m²

Office space: approx. 1.000 m²

Groundbreaking: 17.10.2019

Topping out ceremony: 28.09.2020

Completion: planned for 2021

Photo (BLB NRW): Every day, around 40 employees take care of the extensive technical installations in the new building for the super computer Noctua at the University of Paderborn.
Photo (Paderborn University): from the left to the right: Prof. Dr. Christian Plessl, Chairman of the Board of PC²; Simone Probst, Vice-President for Operations of Paderborn University; Wolfgang Feldmann, Manager of the Bielefeld branch of BLB NRW; in the background are project participants of the university and BLB NRW.
Photo (Paderborn University): During the tour, Prof. Dr. Plessl explained the cooling process of the high-performance computer.
Photo (Paderborn University): The building is scheduled for completion in 2021.