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Can Liquids Cool Data Centers?

January 21, 2014 By William Opalka

Facebook data centerA recent report in IEEE Spectrum shows how one center in Hong Kong submerges its servers in baths of oil comes close to eliminating its cooling costs.

Asicminer, a Hong Kong–based bitcoin mining operation, at its 500-kW computing system uses 97 percent less energy on cooling than conventional methods. Racks hold computers that are submerged in tanks filled with dielectric oil that won’t damage the machines. The oil takes up the system’s heat, and inexpensive cooling equipment extracts the heat out of the oil, ultimately expelling it outside.

Direct liquid cooling is a rarity in the corporate data centers that run bank transactions and the cloud centers. Data centers consume more than 1 percent of the world’s electricity and about 2 percent of the electricity in the United States. A third or more of that expenditure is for cooling.

“[Immersion cooling] is interesting technology, but the real question is, How do I implement it in a data center?” Ed Turkel, the group manager of high-performance computing marketing at HP told Spectrum. “What does a data center look like with these high-tech bathtubs with servers in them?”

Cloud server farms have gravitated to where electricity is cheap and plentiful. Data-center operators may want to place their computing power closer to users as pressure from environmental groups increases to lower energy use.

 



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