A multi-module UPS designed to balance reliability and scalability, along with a 1.5 MW generator to provide backup power for extended outages, was selected for the Maui High Performance Computing Center, a site which provides critical computational support for the Department of Defense.


The Maui High Performance Computing Center (MHPCC) stands at the forefront of high-performance computing and provides more than 21 million hours of computing time annually to vital defense and scientific R&D and test programs.

Part of the Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing site based in Hawaii, and managed by the University of Hawaii, the center provides access to parallel supercomputing hardware, advanced software applications, high bandwidth communications, and high-performance storage technologies. It delivers critical computational support for high-priority Department of Defense (DoD) projects such as the study of high-power radio frequency energy weapons, the development of lasers, and testing of unmanned aircraft.


A new 8,000-sq-ft data center

Since the MHPCC was commissioned in 1993, its high-performance computing resources have been housed in a 6,000-sq-ft data center protected by Liebert power and precision cooling equipment. Relying on Liebert technology for environmental control and power protection has allowed the center to achieve high availability while continually adding the cutting-edge technology required to stay at the forefront of supercomputing technology.

In 2006, the center addressed the need for greater computational capacity by developing plans to implement a Terascale High Performance Computing platform from Dell. The 5,120-processor Dell PowerEdge 1955 system would increase the computational capability of the center’s platform to 60 teraflops, ranking it among the fastest supercomputers in the world.

The new system represented the biggest single investment in the center’s history, and required a new 8,000-sq-ft data center to house the system. Because planned upgrades will increase overall computational capability to 120 Teraflops within two years, the new facility required a dynamic power and cooling infrastructure that could scale to handle the added power demands and heat load.

As a national resource for vital government research, MHPCC has a business-critical continuity goal of 100% availability. This lofty expectation is consistently threatened by geographic conditions, as MHPCC is located in a remote area that experiences frequent loss of commercial power and is subject to earthquakes and tropical storms.

“Our entire business is information technology and the necessity for maintaining operational capability is absolute,” said Carl Shelton, MHPCC facility manager. Shelton worked with local Liebert representatives from Power Protection Services to specify and install the new equipment. “The nature of our research is very high priority and fast-paced,” he added.

Within the walls of MHPCC’s new data center, the Dell PowerEdge servers occupy 40 racks arranged in four rows in a hot aisle/cold aisle configuration. The room has a 36-in. raised floor to promote ample airflow and pressure. After the Liebert specialists calculated the projected heat load, they specified 12 Liebert Deluxe units rated at a combined 360 tons of A/C capacity to provide precise, reliable control of room temperature, humidity, and airflow. A Liebert chiller connects the precision cooling units to the facility’s chilled water system.

To provide reliable, backup power for the new supercomputer, MHPCC deployed a multi-module UPS designed to balance reliability and scalability, using Liebert Series 610 UPS with a combined capacity of 850 kVA of power protection. The UPS modules are connected through a Liebert System Control Cabinet. The enhanced fault current management capabilities of the Liebert Series 610 provide immediate response to utility outages with high overload capacity. Four Liebert PPC precision power centers provide grounding, custom electrical distribution, and monitoring and expansion capabilities. A 1.5 MW generator provides backup power for extended outages.

“Between the UPSs and the generator, we’ve been able to weather commercial power outages without incident,” Shelton said.


Ups delivers in the clutch

MHPCC met its project deadline for installation of power and precision cooling equipment and launching the new supercomputing system in September 2006. The added capacity complements the DoD High Performance Computing Modernization Program’s array of high performance computing resources. Nicknamed “Jaws,” it is the largest supercomputer in the DoD research program.

In initial testing, the new system delivered a clock speed of 42.39 teraflops, ranking it as the 11th-fastest supercomputer in the world on the November 2006 list of Top 500 Supercomputer Sites (as compiled by researchers from the University of Tennessee and the University of Mannheim).

Power and cooling systems have performed flawlessly, supporting continuous operation of the system despite a 6.7 magnitude earthquake in 2006 that caused $200 million dollars of damage on several Hawaiian Islands. “We lost commercial power for about 10 hours, but our UPS and generator kicked in seamlessly and kept us online,” Shelton recalled.

Looking ahead, he is confident that the data center has the dynamic power and cooling infrastructure to meet his business-critical IT infrastructure needs and accommodate planned expansion. ES