Civil – Cineca




Leonardo’s beating heart now at Cineca in Bologna. The supercomputer installed in the Ex Manifatture Tabacchi technopole building in Bologna, Italy, is the 4th most powerful supercomputing system world-wide: once fully operational it will feature a computational power of up to 250 million billion operations per second and a storage capacity of over 100 petabytes (i.e. over 104 million gigabytes).

The ability to handle and analyse such a huge amount of data is one of the main development drivers for the future of not only Emilia Romagna, but of all of Italy and Europe, too. Leonardo will be available to universities, laboratories and companies: it will be able to support scientific research and the industrial world in terms of innovation and digitalisation.

The project aims to turn the Bologna-based technopole into a prominent scientific centre of excellence in supercomputing – with some of the most powerful infrastructures in the world concentrated in an area of approximately 100 thousand square metres. In addition to Leonardo, which is part of Cineca, the hosting computing centre, the data centre of the European Center for Medium-Term Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) is already operational – after being relocated from the United Kingdom; the headquarters and new industrial research laboratories of Enea will also be moved there, with the data centre of the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) expected to join the other resources during the summer of 2023.

The project

Cefla – which in addition to building the data centre systems is the parent company of the temporary association created with ICM Group for the construction part of the contract, in conjunction with DBA – for the design part – built the control room that hosts Leonardo, with servers and storage systems arranged in a rack configuration with a total weight of over 340 tons. The room, entirely made of reinforced concrete, was designed to guarantee maximum resistance to seismic events and fires. The air used to cool the environment is delivered through floor grills, while most of the racks are water cooled.

The supercomputer requires 10 Megawatts of energy to run. Four refrigeration plants are needed to keep it at a constant temperature of 32 degrees. 95% of the cooling is water-based and 5% air-based. The plants receive hot water and cool it with dry coolers to then feed it back into circulation for a total flow of approximately one thousand cubic metres – running underground in 4 tunnels inside 5 kilometre-long pipelines.

On the first floor there are the power plants designed for electricity conversion and distribution. Here, 8 2.5 MW transformers and 6-ton medium voltage switchboards are located. Before casting the actual floor capable of supporting the installation weight, a temporary loading surface was created.

Static batteries are positioned outside the building, which in the event of a power blackout will ensure a usage time of 6 minutes to allow the control groups to come into operation.

An interesting fact about the construction works is that they were delayed by the discovery of a Roman necropolis (the delivery deadline for the first part of the project was postponed by a few months).

Last but certainly not least, Cineca made a green choice, by deciding to use 100% recovered energy from renewable sources.


Energy required: 10 Megawatt

Overall hardware weight: 340 t

Number of transformers present: 8

Single power transformer: 2,5 Mw

Civil - CED Crif