Greener, better computing

Jon Bakken

Jon Bakken, head of the Core Computing Division, wrote this week’s column.

Fermilab’s Grid Computing Center building has received the Energy Star award for 2012, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. GCC comprises 16,000-square-foot of floor space and houses computers for the data analysis of Fermilab’s particle physics experiments, computers for Lattice QCD computations and about half of our archival tape systems. The award recognizes buildings that measurably cost less to operate and improve the quality of the environment. The Energy Star award webpage lists in detail the energy efficiency measures employed at the GCC.

In December, contractors finished a two-year-long project to upgrade the Feynman Computing Center, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. We created a new high-availability computer room on the third floor of the Feynman Computing Center, improved cooling and electrical power in the existing high-availability computer room on the second floor and retired the computer facility on the first floor. The project has created much improved computing facilities for the laboratory while providing work for local contractors.

The Computing Sector continues to review its operations to improve performance and address the significant cooling and energy efficiency challenges associated with computing buildings. A recent engineering study commissioned by FESS shows that by removing the unneeded earthen berm near GCC, we can dramatically improve the cooling airflow to the building. The berm stems from the time when parts of the building where used for particle physics experiments. We are now working with FESS to get this berm removed, which will be an important step in improving GCC availability during very hot summer days.

The joint efforts of the Computing Sector and FESS teams have resulted in the outstanding computing facilities we have here at Fermilab, which help us accomplish our physics research goals, reduce cost and protect the environment.