NCI’s data centre houses our supercomputing, cloud computing and data storage systems. Taking up most of the floor space of the NCI building, the data centre and associated plant room are at the heart of our operations.

The data centre features various innovative electrical distribution and cooling solutions to maintain peak performance for all of our systems. A false floor raises the computing equipment up and leaves room for pipes of hot and cold water, and electrical cables, to reach every corner of the room. Plugged into the servers, fans and power distribution boards from below, these pipes and cables keep the Gadi supercomputer, all of our filesystems and the associated infrastructure running 24/7. In total, more than 2 megawatts of electrical power gets distributed to our systems, with a mix of air- and water-cooling in use throughout.

The NCI supercomputer Raijin, columns of black computer servers separated by stacks of in-row fans, in a big white room.

We use a highly efficient free cooling solution to deal with all the heat produced by the computing equipment. This has been a key design feature of the building since its inauguration in late 2012. By leveraging the cooling properties of evaporating water, free cooling efficiently removes excess heat from the processors, hard drives and server racks.

Gadi also uses innovative water-cooling technology, with water piped directly over the processors and pulling the excess heat away quickly and efficiently. For a supercomputer of Gadi's size, combining water and air cooling helps to keep it cool and operating at optimal temperatures. Both the water and the air cooling systems are set up so that heat generated from the computers is concentrated in circulating water pipes, thereby removing the heat from the data centre air and importantly, the processors. The hot water is then piped to the data centre roof from where it evaporates. Canberra’s low humidity and relatively low temperatures makes it an ideal place to employ free cooling. For days when the humidity does get too high for efficient evaporative cooling, we can put some industrial chillers to work to cool down the water instead. NCI continues to improve and optimise the electrical and cooling efficiency of our data centre, striving to have as efficient and effective a cooling system as possible.