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Quebec Data Center Built In a Silo 113

Posted by timothy
from the for-next-andomeda-strain-remake dept.
1sockchuck writes "A supercomputing center in Quebec has transformed a huge concrete silo into the CLUMEQ Colossus, a data center filled with HPC clusters. The silo, which is 65 feet high with two-foot thick concrete walls, previously housed a Van de Graaf accelerator dating to the 1960s. It was redesigned to house three floors of server cabinets, arranged so cold air can flow from the outside of the facility through the racks and return via an interior 'hot core.' The construction and operation of the unique facility (PDF) are detailed in a presentation from CLUMEQ."
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Quebec Data Center Built In a Silo

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  • by davidwr (791652) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:11PM (#30392414) Homepage Journal

    Size DOES matter.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by perlchild (582235)

      Well the silo houses just a bit more than half(2700sq.ft) compared to the other location(it's apparently a multi-campus project, the other campus has 5000sq.ft) not sure if that's an academic requirement. As per your comment though, haven't met a computer that didn't fear comparison with an office tower....

      • Infobunker [infobunker.com] 4tw. Again.

        They just opened a pit to be exposed to outside air in the winter which will create a frozen ballast. They are expecting to not have to turn on the coolers for a month on each side of winter. Which means all winter long, 1 month of fall and 1 month of spring, they do don't need to run their coolers.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's not THAT big, although it's still very impressive:
      http://maps.google.com/maps?t=h&ll=46.780896,-71.277843&spn=0.00137,0.003484&z=19

  • SHPEGS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rohar (253766) * <bob.rohatensky@sasktel.net> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:13PM (#30392450) Homepage Journal
    You could incorporate this idea into The SHPEGS [shpegs.org] concept.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      Of course knowing that SHPEGS is your concept puts your advocacy in a different light.
       
      I notice in the two years since SHPEGS was featured on Slashdot [slashdot.org] you don't appear to have much progress.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hmm,

    Looks like they read too much UserFriendly...

    http://ars.userfriendly.org/cartoons/?id=20010611

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:17PM (#30392512)

    Sun spokesperson Dr. C. Forbin announced a second center would be rolling out on the island of Crete after the population has been relocated.

  • But, does it run... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by i_ate_god (899684)

    ...on poutine?

    • by natehoy (1608657) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:32PM (#30392712) Journal

      Nothing runs on poutine. Try this: Eat a bunch of it and try running. Guarantee YOU aren't going to run on it, and you're DESIGNED to convert food into fuel.

      Unless, by "run", you mean "collapse and expire due to massive arterial blockage", in which Quebecois is a somewhat more condensed language than I gave it credit for.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Theoboley (1226542)
        "collapse and expire due to massive arterial blockage"

        Isn't that what Poutine translates to from Quebecois to English??
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tomhudson (43916)

        Nothing runs on poutine. Try this: Eat a bunch of it and try running

        Nonsense - real poutine [wikipedia.org] is made with french fries fried in oil with at least 100,000 km on it - you WILL have the runs after eating enough of it ...

        Seriously, poutine made with fries done in new oil, cooked properly (fry them, take them out, drain, refry so the outside is crip and the inside is cooked), top with curd cheese and poutine sauce is awesome. The only thing better is Italian poutine - poutine with a thick and meaty spaghetti

        • ./ News for Poutine Lovers.

          I'm in Vancouver and the Poutine just isn't the same as in Quebec. I'm going to have to go there this summer (pour de la bonne Poutine!). Any ideas what restaurants serve the Italian poutine? I haven't seen or heard of it before. Is it a Montreal or maybe Toronto only thing (w/ the strong Italian communities?)?

          • by tomhudson (43916)

            The best I've ever had was a restaurant on the south shore (right on route 132 in Delson), but you can get it at a lot of places.

            The trick, of course, is to know WHEN to go, because the quality can be variable at any place, depending on the cook.

  • That is for the ones that think that putting a data center is not rocket science.
  • Maybe not so new (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The article is titled: "Wild New Design: Data Center in A Silo"

    Kind of reminds me of a supersized Cray 1 (minus the bowl_of_spaghetti wiring in the middle.)

    • Except that it should be "Wild (and somewhat short-sighted) New Design...". To be specific, from TFA:

      The cooling coils and air handlers are located in the basement. Chilled air flows upward through the outside cold aisle and through the racks of servers. The waste heat exits the rear of the racks into the hot core, and is returned to the basement via the cold aisle.

      Why on earth would they go against the laws of physics and push the cold air up and the warm air down? This would have been a much better des

      • by Sylvak (967868)

        if you think about it, it does make sense. the cold air will heat up after going through the racks, and that hot air will escape from the top. probably easier to push the hot air down once it is in the 'heat core' than it would be pushing hot air down the silo

        • I disagree. I think it would've been much smarter to put the cooling at the top of the silo. That way, you could push the cold air down through the outside supply column, then once the heat has moved to the inner "heat core", you could assist mother nature and push the heat up to the top, where it can be extracted. This would also make it a LOT easier to do Air Side Economization, since you could put the make-up and exhaust air assemblies at the top of the silo along with the other Air Handling and
      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        Are there any corners in the silo into which they could paint themselves?

  • by ewg (158266) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:27PM (#30392634)
    Finally, vertically integrated data centers...
  • by natehoy (1608657) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:29PM (#30392678) Journal

    They should have left the missile there and built the computers in to it.

    1. Harvest the warhead for nuclear material - onsite power.
    2. Instant, one button off-site backup. OK, not with great integrity control, but...

    • by chaos579 (1645021)
      what would we do when the nuclear material began to decay and poison all of those poor nerds in the silo? would we call in the nuclear disposal squad?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Just leave them in there. Nothing of value will be lost. It's not like they were ever going to reproduce anyway.

    • by Dahamma (304068) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:55PM (#30393052)

      RTFA (or even just the summary!) This is Quebec. They don't have nuclear missiles.

      And we know this for a fact because if they did, they would have already nuked all English-speaking Canadian cities and declared independence years ago.

      • by Again (1351325)

        RTFA (or even just the summary!) This is Quebec. They don't have nuclear missiles.

        And we know this for a fact because if they did, they would have already nuked all English-speaking Canadian cities and declared independence years ago.

        lol So true. I visited there a couple years ago for a coding competition and the people are nice... if you can speak French.

        • by natehoy (1608657) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @04:25PM (#30393552) Journal

          I found that true in Quebec some years ago, but when I went back more recently I ran into a LOT of people who were happy to speak English, even though I speak French (albeit VERY poorly) and tried.

          Me: "Bonjour"
          Waitress: "Hello. Can we speak English?"
          Me: "You got how bad my French was from 'Bonjour'?"
          Waitress: (giggles) "Yes"

          I don't know who was laughing harder at that, me, the waitress, or my wife. But the point is that Quebec seems to have gone through a sea change in the last decade or so, and the residents seem much more accepting of Americans speaking English.

          • Depends on where in Quebec. Downtown Montreal is completely bilingual in any case so English works just fine. Anywhere else in the province, however, it's a nice gesture to greet people in French; it would be impolite to assume that they speak English although they probably do. Besides, it's not Americans (or generally English Canadians) that some people here dislike, it's Ontario.
          • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            I don't see what's different from a decade ago. People that sells something, like the tourism industry and restaurants, always have been used to receive people that speak English only. We in Quebec are like everybody else, we want money from the tourists. The fact that you said "Bonjour" is of course seen as a big plus since it will be seen as a sign of respect.
            However, Quebecers themselves expect to be served in French when they enter a restaurant, and they can be insulted if they don't, even if they speak

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Sponge Bath (413667)

        The picture of the "Compute room" was interesting. Both the Teletype terminals and the side burns on the operators look like they could withstand nuclear attack.

  • Imagine a beowulf cluster of those...?
  • Is Russia building an identical system on the other side of the world?
  • Nice to see a reference to Colossus: The Forbin Project in the document. That film is under-appreciated, especially its own copyright owner. Where's our widescreen format, region 1 DVD, jerks!

    • Back at my first ISP job, we had a server that was responsible for processing USENET which was named Colossus, as a reference to the film.

      Man, those were the days. I remember when it couldn't keep up with the volume of newsfeeds because it had to swap too much to the HD, which of course was a huge bottleneck. So we spent thousands (tens of?) on a 100 MB RAM-based drive to handle the system's swap partition. Took a day's worth of processing down from 28+ hours down to 4-5.

      And it was worth it, too. A
  • "...cold air can flow from the outside of the facility through the racks and return via an interior 'hot core.'"

    MacChimney lives!

  • Familiar Grounds (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    That facility at the Vachon Pavillion, Université Laval in Québec city is were I spent most of my time while doing my degree in Engineering Physics. I'm glad that unused accelerator is now being revamped into something useful.

    Now if only they can also find some money to paint the damn thing instead of letting it being barf-green mixed with rust....

  • It sounds like they took the idea right out of the User Friendly comic. Next thing we'll hear, they'll rename the computer Erwin and have Dust Puppy sightings. http://ars.userfriendly.org/cartoons/?id=20010611 [userfriendly.org]
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @04:02PM (#30393164) Homepage

    Back in college the city was putting in a new, very large water tower. We started a rumor that it was actually a nuclear power plant disguised as a water tower and if you called the city, they would claim it was only a water tower.

    They got enough calls it made the local paper. And when they tried to explain it was a water tower, "They said you'd say that!" Classic.

    A data center in a silo would be almost as good. Looks like a death ray generator to me. Yeah, Canadian death ray. Pew! Pew! Pew! Eh?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by damien_kane (519267)

      A data center in a silo would be almost as good. Looks like a death ray generator to me. Yeah, Canadian death ray. Pew! Pew! Pew! Eh?

      That's preposterous... Everyone knows that the Canadian doomsday machine is at the top of the CN Tower [imdb.com].

    • by geogob (569250)

      Considering that the said silo housed a particle accelerator before housing a data center, you aren't that far off with your 'death ray' idea...

    • Even worse, it's a French Canadian death ray.

      Speaking anything other then English is a little suspicious, if you ask me those guys are up to no good.

  • by MullerMn (526350)
    Next time let the guy who knows the correct form of 'you're' win the argument.
  • And I though this new design was all about being able to compute CRCs faster!

    On a more serious note :

    - It's cool that they recycle the heat and use outside air for cooling during winter (Our winters are way cool enough for that!)

    - When the university (also in Québec) where I did my bachelor build a new HPC datacenter in 2005, some students of the engineering faculty actually drafted a project to recycle the heat produced by the datacenter, but they were turned down with the excuse that their project wa

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:27PM (#30394438) Homepage
    ...was much cooler. "Data center"? Eh.
  • and this is the voice of my brother Guardian. How is it going, eh? And this is the voice of unity. Go. Oo wook oo oo oo oo oo ooooo! Oo wook oo oo oo oo oo oooooo! That is our intro theme. Yeah, that way when you have your radio on and you hear that Oo wook oo oo oo oo oo ooooo! Oo wook oo oo oo oo oo oooooo! Shut up you hoser they heard it already. Anyway OK when you hear that you will know it is the voice of World Control coming on the air to tell you something important. Beauty eh? You forgot to tell the
  • Put the towers IN THE GROUND. Even here in Colorado that is around 55-60F. The nice thing is that it is easier to protect down there. Heck, the old missile silos around US, Canada, Russia, etc. are IDEAL for this.
    • Put the towers IN THE GROUND. Even here in Colorado that is around 55-60F. The nice thing is that it is easier to protect down there. Heck, the old missile silos around US, Canada, Russia, etc. are IDEAL for this.

      Powered by Stirling generator. Stick a cold side heat exchanger at the base and a hot side exchanger at the top, plumbed so you can switch them summer/winter. Pipe the heat via closed loop water pipes so you can keep the working gas loop short enough for decent RPM. Scavenge the heat from the DC as well to keep the overall losses down. Free power.

    • by geogob (569250)

      I fail to see how this is a waste of money. Instead of building the silo (or digging a hole), they converted a structure already present.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Clover_Kicker (20761)

      I'll bite, where are all the old missile silos in Canada?

      • > I'll bite, where are all the old missile silos in Canada?

        You know all those "grain" silos out in the prairies? Fell for it, didn't you?

    • > Put the towers IN THE GROUND. Even here in Colorado that is around 55-60F.

      The ground also doesn't conduct heat very well.

  • ... because there's always a lot of people who are way smarter than me here who come and make very insightful comments but this time I have to say ... ... so farking what ?

    Please return to your normal schedules.

    Thank you.

    Tessa

  • It's a humongous Cray X-MP. Where are the cushions?
  • Sun prepared interesting material on the Colosse supercomputer

    - Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qyCH2G8epo [youtube.com]
    - Interactive presentation: http://www.sun.com/ws/vid.jsp?wcwid=10B02221_01&size=880x600 [sun.com]
    - Promo sheet: http://www.sun.com/customers/servers/clumeq.xml [sun.com]

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