CERN Preparing New Data Center to Power the “Beauty” Project
A new data center is being prepared by CERN in Geneva. This facility is going to be used with the Large Hadron Collider, which already has four other major data centers dedicated to this facility. For those that don’t know, CERN is best known for the Large Hadron Collider, which is a sixteen-mile-long loop that is underground and used to facilitate the collision of tiny particles and observe their results. The collider itself is the largest machine in the world, and has led to some incredible scientific breakthroughs over the course of the years.
This newest data center is being set up specifically for the Large Hadron Collider ‘Beauty’ project, or LHCb for short. During the project, tiny particles will collide at near the speed of light, which generates other particles, which can then decay even further into additional particles. The point of the project is to attempt to gain information about what happened in the time immediately following the Big Bang. Scientists hope to learn why matter survived during that time, and even how the universe was created.
Once the facility is fully operational, it will have a capacity of at least 30PB of data. Once stored in the data center, computers will be rapidly analyzing the information to determine what is important and what can be discarded. The critical information will then be moved to another facility for further analysis and use. They expect that data will only remain in this new data center for a week or two at a time before it is moved off and new information is generated.
Niko Neufeld, the deputy project leader at CERN, said, “This is only one of five significant data centers we run at CERN.” He went on to say that the new LHCb data center, “is now being built because of the next generation of experiments which require much more IT.”
The current data center that is being used for this project is located 300 feet below the surface. It was added to an existing area in the facility that was free from previous experiments, which made it ideally suited for this type of equipment. Neufeld said, “There was significant space, with power and cooling water available underground, so that was sort of there. Even though it is inconvenient to run a data center underground, it was simply cheaper, because it required only some adaptations.”
About the LHCb Data Center
The new LHCb data center is going to be on the surface rather than deep underground like the current one. It is located right next to the LHC facility, requiring only a 150-foot cable to connect the collider equipment to the data center. The new facility is going to be 32,500 square feet with 3MW of power. This is a huge increase compared to the current data center space, which is only 1615 square feet.
CERN has decided to use prefabricated data center construction. It is built from six separate modules, each of which houses IT racks and supplies 500kW of cooling capacity. The cooling system uses indirect free air cooling with adiabatic assist, which should be much easier to manage than the underground systems. Thanks to the cool climate of the area, they expect that they will only need to use the water assisted cooling for 20-30 days per year on average.
No Backup Power
One of the most surprising things about such an advanced facility is that it will have no backup power source. No power generator, and no batteries. If commercial power goes out to the facility, all data that is in transit will be lost.
According to Neufeld, however, this isn’t a huge concern. He commented, “The power distribution at CERN has been traditionally very reliable, so there have been very few major outages. I think one or two in the last five or six years that I remember.” He continued, “When the accelerator is down, there is no input data, and there is nothing urgent to be processed. We have a small server room, not in the facility directly, where we have some critical infrastructure, like shared file systems and stuff like that, which doesn’t like to go down. This is a very small room, with 80kW, which is on the battery and diesel backup.”
The facility should be up and running by the end of 2019 so the most advanced experiments focused on the time immediately following the Big Bang can continue. What new discoveries will be made in this facility is anyone’s guess, but it will undoubtedly be extraordinary.