The system, called Electra, is expected to save about 1,300,000 gallons of water and a million kilowatt-hours of energy each year, equal to the annual energy usage of about 90 households.
"This is a different way for NASA to do supercomputing in a cost-effective manner", stated Bill Thigpen, chief of the Advanced Computing Branch at Ames' NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) facility. "It makes it possible for us to be flexible and add computing resources as needed, and we can save about $35 million dollars - about half the cost of building another big facility."
One of the benefits of the Electra system is its flexibility, through container modules that can be easily added or removed in sections without disrupting operations. NASA is already considering an expansion of up to 16 times the current capability of the modular environment to keep up with the requests for supercomputing time needed to support NASA researchers.
Scientists and engineers around the country can log into Electra to use its high-performance computing for their research supporting NASA missions. In doing so, they will significantly reduce the impact on the environment, compared to using traditional supercomputers.
"One of NASA's key science goals is to expand our knowledge of Earth systems", stated Bill Thigpen. "So we have a responsibility to do our part to lessen the impact of our technologies on the environment over the long term."
The reduced use of water and energy resources does not lessen the system's capability. The Electra system will provide users an additional 280 million hours of computing time per year, according to Bill Thigpen. It already ranks 39th in the U.S. on the TOP500 list of the most powerful computer systems. Users of the system say it's faster and easier to run jobs in the heavily utilized NAS computing environment, where time using the agency's most powerful supercomputer, Pleiades, is always in demand.
The Modular Supercomputing Facility was built and installed by NASA partners SGI/CommScope and is managed by the NASA Advanced Supercomputing Division at Ames.