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November 18, 2016

HPE build world’s first solar powered supercomputer to fight Zika virus

Dubbed Hikari, the supercomputer is currently working on calculations pertaining to the Zika virus crisis.

By Ellie Burns

HPE has joined forces with the Texas Advanced Computing Center to develop Hikari – the world’s first solar-powered supercomputer.

Currently calculating biology applications to help solve the Zika virus crisis, Hikari was developed in partnership with the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), a Japanese government agency, and NTT Facilities.

The project to build Hikari stemmed from the need to overcome the power challenges of today’s supercomputers. Supercomputers have the power to transform science and innovations, but the amount of energy they require has been a limiting factor towards their expansion. Because traditional supercomputers consume vast amounts of electricity and produce a lot of heat, larger cooling facilities must be constructed to ensure proper operation.

“Because the solar panels are wired directly to the computer, Hikari runs basically on free energy, in the most efficient and sustainable way” says Nic Dube Chief Technologist for High-Performance Computing at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. “If you look at the dashboard for Hikari, you can see that the real-time energy performance of this system outperforms any other platform on the planet.”

Hikari leverages the Apollo 8000 warm water cooling system that eliminates the need for Computer Room Air Handlers (CRAH) and, by using dry-coolers instead of chillers, significantly reduces the cooling energy that would normally be required. In addition, the Apollo 8000 system was designed to minimize the supporting datacenter infrastructure to a minimum, driving savings not only on the operating expenses, but on the upfront capital expenses too.

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Hikari could prove a useful model for the data centers of the future; as data centers are rapidly growing in size to meet data and computing demands, the amount of power and density required to run the operations has increased.

Dan Stanzione, executive director at the Texas Advanced Computing Center, believes that Hikari is a large-scale experiment to run a production-scale data center entirely on DC power. At the core of the project is the HPE 8000 server. The supercomputer runs on about 200,000 watts of DC power. Other components of Hikari include DC battery systems, DC air-conditioning, DC lighting, DC supply and solar panels.

“We were looking at how to incorporate HVDC in the most efficient water-cooled racks on the planet (Apollo 8000) and how to incorporate renewables. The plan is to provide real evidence at a production scale to help improve data centers for years to come,” said Stanzione.

Since the Hikari team launched the measurement phase at the end of August, more than 30 percent of the total power used by the supercomputer has been supplied by renewable energy sources.  During some daylight hours, the system was operating at 100 percent from renewable sources.

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