Thermal simulation helps cool Silicon Graphics supercomputer

MARLBOROUGH, Mass., 26 Aug. 2005. As computing companies pack more processors into smaller boxes, it becomes critical to get the heat they generate out of the box as quickly as possible. Otherwise, integrated circuits will be fried in nanoseconds.

MARLBOROUGH, Mass., 26 Aug. 2005. As computing companies pack more processors into smaller boxes, it becomes critical to get the heat they generate out of the box as quickly as possible. Otherwise, integrated circuits will be fried in nanoseconds.

Furthermore, it is important to identify and solve these kinds of thermal problems early in the design process in order to avoid any delays that might allow a competitor win the race to market.

Designers at Silicon Graphics Inc. in Mountain View, Calif., faced these challenges when they developed their new SGI Altix 3700 Bx2 supercomputer, which supports 64 Intel Itanium processors per rack.

The Bx2 includes a new NUMAlink 4 Router application specific integrated circuit (ASIC), which doubles the flow of information between processors with latency under one microsecond.

SGI Altix supports more than 2.5 times the memory bandwidth of the nearest RISC-based system and scales to as much as 24 terabytes of globally addressable memoryT.

he Bx2 dissipates as much as 1000 watts of power within each 28-by-17.5-by-7-inch brick, or modular physical packaging unit. Without a way to move the heat quickly out of the brick, component temperatures would quickly reach hundreds of degrees Celsius, creating significant risk of system malfunction.

They turned to the Flotherm thermal simulation software from Flomerics Inc. in Marlborough, Mass., which delivers a better than 50 percent market share in the increasingly critical area of managing the heat generated by electronic components.

SGI engineer Rick Salmonson built Flotherm models of the brick, three high performance axial fans, and the electronic components, which are lined up edge-on to the fan to improve airflow. Salmonson used Flotherm to simulate the flow of air and heat through the brick, making it possible to determine the temperature of each critical semiconductor junction with an accuracy of a few degrees.

Flotherm software reduces the time and skill necessary to simulate complicated electronics cooling problems, because it is specially designed for them. Flotherm provides tools that allow users to assemble models from libraries, avoiding the need to create them from scratch.

For more information contact Flomerics online at www.flomerics.com.

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