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Liquid Cooling

You might not remember it, but there was a time when most high-powered supercomputers were cooled with fluid. Now, we’re not talking about a run-of-the-mill server in the enterprise, or even those computers powering the biggest companies in the world. No, these supercomputers, such as those made by Cray, were the cutting edge. They were faster than the fastest production computer around. They were able to achieve those speeds, in part, through aggressive cooling efforts. Today, some data centers are having to turn back the page a bit and use the same kind of technology.

Beating the heat

Take, for example, the Texas Advanced Computing Center in Austin. The Texas heat presents some unique problems that a data center in Minnesota, for example, doesn’t have to face. There, data center managers have been putting liquid cooling to the test. They’ve been placing test servers in mineral oil, which doesn’t conduct electricity.

These servers have had fans removed, and the drives have been enclosed so as to prevent the fluid from getting inside and mucking up the works. Other than that, these are standard Dell servers.

Cooling on the cheap

This environment keeps the mineral oil at about 105 degrees, which means that the CPUs and disks run at around 115 degrees, which is within an acceptable range. This greatly reduces the need for air cooling. To cool the air temperature to 70 degrees, which is what needs to happen to have the same results, you have to have the cooling fluid in your chillers down to around 45 degrees.

Looking into long-term effects

One of the concerns, of course, is the long-term impact of these servers running in mineral oil. Researchers are concerned about how it might affect the reliability of the components, as well as the performance of the disk drives. In all actuality, the mineral oil may actually help to absorb some shock for the disk drives, actually increasing performance.

Reducing power needs

Today, many data centers are running on about a PUE of 1.3, meaning that for every dollar they spend running a computer they also spend about 30 cents to cool that computer. If liquid cooling proves to be reliable and practical, it could drop PUE down to almost nothing.

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Unitiv, Inc., is a professional provider of enterprise IT solutions. Unitiv delivers its services from its headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia, USA, and its regional office in Iselin, New Jersey, USA. Unitiv provides a strategic approach to its service delivery, focusing on three core components: People, Products, and Processes. The People to advise and support customers. The Products to design and build solutions. The Processes to govern and manage post-implementation operations.