Cern IT gets new home as servers suck grid dry

With its very own power station

With its very own power station

The lab cracking data from the Cern Big Bang experiment needs a new computing hub because its existing one is sucking the power grid dry.

It's a move that's been prompted by the energy demands of the computer centre at Cern's servers: the facility can draw a maximum of 2.5 megawatts of energy, yet the task of powering and cooling its massive server racks is already taking it close to that ceiling.

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The centre's 8,000 servers - which house about 40,000 processor cores - now consume the same amount of power and generate the same amount of heat as about 2,500 hairdressers' shops.

Now Cern is planning to build a new centre in France, in addition to the existing centre, just over the border from its base in Geneva, Switzerland, directly linked to a power station.

Jean Michel Jouanigot, head of network services for Cern, said the new centre will provide enough power to increase its processing capacity between five and tenfold.

A large part of the existing computer centre in Geneva is devoted to processing and storing the 15 petabytes of data that will be produced by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator each year, as well as being the main hub for the LHC's grid of more than 100,000 processors.

Jouanigot said: "The biggest problem that we have is power and computer efficiency. We are constantly trying to get the same computing power for the same energy consumption.

"It is running at maximum capacity: the Swiss and the French networks here can hardly provide us with any more power.

"The solution is to move it to the French side where the advantage would be it is closer to the power station with a high power line coming direct from the French supplier."

Jouanigot said that if the computer centre gets the go ahead, it will be up and running in about four years.