University of Southern California, Center for High Performance Computing and Communications
Los Angeles, CA

The University of Southern California was focused on upgrading their facilities for increased computer power to accommodate a higher ranked high density configuration for their supercomputer. Based on our Critical Facilities expertise, Syska Hennessy Group was selected to evaluate the facility and make recommendations for the design and configuration of the systems.

Prior to our involvement and proper evaluation of the facility, USC’s IT Department started partial installation of equipment. As they continued to populate the space, server output reached temperatures in excess of 120° leading to suspicions of inadequate cooling capacity. The facilities team identified the issue and selected Syska to study and measure their facility in a live environment and validate their assumptions.

We were able to identify two major problems: improper air distribution and lack of air conditioning capacity. Given our knowledge and expertise in critical data center environments, Syska was able to identify air patterns and better predict how these would affect various cooling solutions. Having already researched and documented dozens of different scenarios, our team was able to look at past CFD modeling history to help pinpoint the best system alternatives.

Syska presented multiple recommendations to USC, and the team decided to move forward with implementation of a combined under floor and overhead air system as it appeared to be the most effective. This non-traditional solution uses new perforated floor tile (nine times more effective than the original) in conjunction with Liebert’s new air conditioning system, the Extreme Density Chiller (XDC), the first of its kind installed in the country.

Our solution resulted in the First Field Application (FFA) of the XDC. We led the consulting team in working very closely with the owner, the users, and the vendors. We were able to expedite delivery of materials at a lower cost for the client, thus saving time and money. The entire project was delivered in two months, from the beginning of design to the end of construction. Recently ranked the 31st most powerful computer system in the world, USC’s supercomputer currently supports more than 80 research projects in a variety of disciplines.