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Princeton’s New High-Performance Computing Research Center (HPCRC) Opens

Princeton’s new High-Performance Computing Research Center (HPCRC), located on the Forrestal Campus, is now open for business. The new 40,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility has an initial capacity that is nearly three times greater than that of Princeton’s current data center located at 87 Prospect Avenue.  The HPCRC will house high-performance research computers, computers running central University administrative systems, and academic and administrative departmental computers.  As such, the center will support the future growth of both research and administrative computing at Princeton.

The relocation of computers to the data center began the first week of January 2012 and concluded at the end of February 2012. Approximately 1,800 computers were newly installed or moved from several campus locations, including the data center at 87 Prospect, the Lewis Library High-Performance Computing Center, and several academic and administrative departmental computer rooms across campus.

Of the 1,800 computers:

  • 850 are high-performance research cluster computers supporting faculty research
  • 650 are departmental servers and cluster computers
  • More than 20% (410 machines) of the total machines are new to Princeton’s centralized data centers, coming from departments that chose to take advantage of the benefits of housing their computers at the new data center
  • 300 are OIT computers, of which 11 are centralized servers that run 448 virtualized servers

The data center was designed to provide a highly reliable computing environment with multiple tiers of backup power.  “Uninterruptable Power Supply” (UPS) units provide protection against brief power interruptions and transient voltage spikes.  The center’s redundant natural gas and diesel-powered generators safeguard against extended power outages for all administrative and research computing systems.  Previously, there was no backup power for extended outages at the 87 Prospect data center.

High availability of administrative computing is further ensured through redundant power paths (each with its own transformer and UPS) from the utility source to each administrative computer.  The redundancy in the power path not only protects against unplanned outages, but also allows for continuous power while scheduled maintenance is being performed on components of the power system. 

The HPCRC also offers economic and sustainability savings.  The design of the building minimizes the energy used for cooling and power distribution.  In this way, a higher proportion of the total energy used by the building is delivered directly to the computers.  With these efficiencies, one third less energy will be needed to run the computers coming from the 87 Prospect data center.  An even greater energy savings is expected for computers being moved from departmental computer rooms, which have a lower efficiency than the 87 Prospect data center.

To achieve additional energy cost savings, a natural gas generator and associated automatic controls provide the ability to switch to power generated on site when the purchase price for utility power is high.  To further support sustainability efforts, the HPCRC’s flexible cooling infrastructure automatically makes adjustments to use outside air when possible, for both water, and air, cooling.

Given the HPCRC’s many sustainability features, Princeton has applied for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” (LEED) Certification from the U.S. division of the World Green Building Council.  The HPCRC currently has the possibility of achieving LEED Gold Certification.  If it does so, it will be one of only nine data centers worldwide to have been awarded this honor.