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Data Center Liquid Cooling for HPC Upgrade at a Renowned R1 Research University

A BRUNS-PAK Success Story


A private research university in the northeastern United States

The Challenge:

This university was seeking to upgrade its existing data center to support the next generation of its High-Performance Computing (HPC) capabilities. The primary challenge was ensuring that the data center infrastructure could handle increased concentrated demands while maintaining its reliability, scalability, and capacity objectives.

Specific issues included:
  • Limited Scalability: The current legacy data center configuration lacked the necessary capacity to accommodate future growth in computational requirements.
  • Reliability Concerns: Existing mechanical and electrical systems required evaluation and upgrades to support the anticipated loads while ensuring continuous operation.
  • Operational Constraints: The upgrades had to be executed without disrupting the Tier I administrative systems and the existing research environments.

The Solution:

BRUNS-PAK proposed a comprehensive feasibility study of leveraging the existing chilled water infrastructure to support the high density data center loads. The deliverable was to develop a preliminary program and schematic design for the data center upgrades, aligned with industry best practices.

Programming – Preliminary:

  • Conducted workshops with key university IT and Facilities stakeholders to confirm project objectives and requirements, including the growth trajectory of HPC workloads.
  • The power requirements and cooling strategy (air-cooled vs. DLC) for CPU/GPU nodes were discussed as well as requirements for supplemental systems such as storage systems and the network infrastructure. Specific attention was given to the type of power required, such as UPS Grade versus Conditioned Commercial Power (with or without a generator).Collaborated with IT and facility teams to define functions, systems, and project needs for the mechanical system replacement as it relates to the Chilled Water System. The target installation area was identified.
  • Conducted a field survey of the existing architectural, electrical, and mechanical data center conditions to gather data for the upgrade.

Schematic Design – Preliminary:

  • Developed conceptual floor plans illustrating the design intent for the necessary changes. These floor plans considered the rack size options and requirements, structured cable and piping pathways, and adjacency and service clearance requirements.
  • Conducted a review with the university’s operations management to plan construction phases maintain operational uptime to both the data center and other loads.
  • Conducted an electrical load analysis to validate the ability to superimpose the new electrical requirements on the existing electrical system without major upgrades to the incoming electrical service. This included a review of the branch circuits distribution panels which were to support the equipment.
  • Defined the supplemental electrical distribution infrastructure required to support the additional compute loads and mechanical infrastructure upgrades.
  • Prepared preliminary mechanical and electrical project scope narratives, a master project schedule, and a high-level rough order of magnitude (ROM) budget estimate ranges.


The implementation process was methodical and collaborative, with clear milestones and phases to ensure minimal disruption.

  • Initial Consultation: Virtual meetings were held to establish project goals and requirements.
  • Field Survey: An on-site assessment was performed to document current conditions.
  • Preliminary Design: Preliminary plans and narratives were created to outline proposed changes, showing how the chiller could be leveraged to support HPC workloads.
  • Operational Review: An informal review ensured that the proposed changes would not impact ongoing data center operations.
  • Budgeting and Scheduling: Developed a “Relative Order of Magnitude” budget estimate and project schedule to guide the project forward.

The Results:

The consulting engagement provided the university with a clear and actionable plan for upgrading its data center, ensuring it could meet future HPC demands.

  • Enhanced Capacity: The proposed upgrade plan supported the university’s need for increased computational capacity with a modular and scalable approach.
  • Improved Reliability: Recommendations for mechanical and electrical system upgrades aimed to enhance overall data center reliability with options for liquid cooling at the rack level.
  • Structured Planning: The university received a detailed schedule and budget estimate, allowing for efficient project planning and execution.

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