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Stanford Opens New Energy-Efficient Research Computing Center
Stanford University has opened the
Stanford Research Computing Center (SRCC) to serve the computational needs
of researchers through an energy-efficient shared facility.
The SRCC is located at the SLAC
National Accelerator Laboratory and has the capacity to house 180
refrigerator-sized racks of servers. Initially, the university has purchased 125
servers to be used as a shared computational resource for researchers throughout
the university. The facility can support 3 megawatts of computing power, one
third of which will go to the School of Medicine, one third to the SLAC and the
remainder to other Stanford researchers.
The SRCC is designed to be energy efficient. Typically, it requires
considerable power to keep so many servers cool enough to prevent overheating.
However, the SRCC is using an entirely air-driven cooling system to maintain a
60-to-80 degree environment, potentially saving as much as $1 million a year in
cooling costs, according to Ann Arvin, vice provost and dean of research at
The cooling system draws in outside air through the roof. The relatively cool
air then passes through industrial-sized fans to the server room, where
"back-to-back rows of servers optimized for efficient airflow take the cool air
in through their front, then send heated air out into a sealed alleyway between
rows," which opens to an outlet in the building's roof, according to the
When the outside air temperature dips below 60 degrees, the system uses some
of its heated air to raise the temperature of the incoming air, and "on hot
days, cold water chills the air before it flows over the equipment."
The SRCC will provide a communal computing resource for the university's
researchers, and co-locating the servers can provide more computing power than
the same number of servers scattered throughout the university because computing
resources can be re-allocated when not in use rather than sitting idle. And
because the campus is connected by a high-speed network, physical distance from
the SRCC won't slow computation speed.
According to the university, "computation is playing a growing role in
faculty research." The SRCC will support a wide variety of research projects,
including "understanding the origins of stars, studying how human populations
evolve, modeling climate change, efficiently delivering energy, making jet
travel more efficient, solving the mysteries of the brain, constructing models
of the molecules that make up our bodies and mining the secrets contained in our
Further information about the SRCC can be found on
Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.