The University of Leicester has just spent £2.2 million ($3.3 million) upgrading its computer system with a hi-tech, environmentally-friendly super ‘green’ computer. The system, dubbed ‘ALICE (Advanced Leicester Information and Computational Environment)‘ is said to be the most energy efficient in the sector despite being ten times more powerful than its predecessor. Created by Hewlett Packard, the new system offers the computational power equivalent of thousands of desktop PCs by clustering large numbers of central processing units. As such, it will be able to analyze more data than ever before, get responses more quickly, and greatly increase the pace of the university’s research.

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But what makes the University of Leicester’s new supercomputer ‘green’? As with all computer systems, the setup produces vast amounts of heat and it’s a challenge to keep it cool so that it can work at optimal efficiency. Most cooling systems are expensive and cause large amounts of CO2 emissions to be pumped into the atmosphere.

In ALICE’s case, the setup uses an advanced water-cooling system that has been described as being “like a glorified car radiator.” The new technology, supplied by Keysource Ltd, is called Ecofris and its installation at the University of Leicester marks the first time it has been set up in any small to medium-sized data center.

It is hoped that the Ecofris system will save the university an estimated £130,000 per year and reduce CO2 emissions by 800 tons compared to ALICE’s predecessor. Keysource Ltd has said that it plans to enter Ecofris into an international competition seeking to identify the most efficient small data center in Europe.

The system comprises 256 computer nodes, two login nodes, two management nodes, and a high performance parallel file system with a 100TB capacity. All these components are connected by a super fast network. Each computer node has a pair of quad-core 2.67GHz Intel Xeon X5550 CPUs and 12GB of RAM. In total, there are 2048 CPU cores available for running jobs. ALICE is running 64-bit Scientific Linux 5.4, a variant of Redhat Enterprise Linux.

Researchers will use the high-performance computer to help find the answers to questions ranging from the effects of different government policies on financial markets to the future of our galaxy.

+ University of Leicester

+ Scientific Computing