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Intel and SGI Test Full-Immersion Cooling For Servers 102

itwbennett (1594911) writes "Intel and SGI have built a proof-of-concept supercomputer that's kept cool using a fluid developed by 3M called Novec that is already used in fire suppression systems. The technology, which could replace fans and eliminate the need to use tons of municipal water to cool data centers, has the potential to slash data-center energy bills by more than 90 percent, said Michael Patterson, senior power and thermal architect at Intel. But there are several challenges, including the need to design new motherboards and servers."
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Intel and SGI Test Full-Immersion Cooling For Servers

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  • Cray-2 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10, 2014 @03:06AM (#46711555)

    The Cray-2 did this in 1985 using a liquid called Fluorinert also invented by 3M:


  • by jones_supa ( 887896 ) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @03:10AM (#46711569)
    A small history lesson for those who don't know, this is not the same SGI (or Silicon Graphics) than of the graphics workstation fame. This one is Rackable Systems which acquired the assets of the original SGI in 2009 (and SGI Japan in 2011).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10, 2014 @03:24AM (#46711609)

    Many years ago I invested in a Hardcore Computer Reactor system. This was a giant custom built computer that had both the motherboard and GPUs submerged in a proprietary non-conductive coolant. It weighs over a hundred pounds filled, and they still needed pumps inside it to direct the coolant across a bunch of purpose built water blocks to extract heat from the hottest components (since liquid convection alone was not enough).

    About a year ago I had to replace the motherboard (which is a proprietary part). I can't even begin to tell you what a gigantic pain in the ass this was. There is a ton of plumbing running around inside the system that you have to worry about, and beyond that the entire compute module comes out of the coolant dripping wet, so you can't just pop it out and chuck it down on your desk. I had to break out a pair of rubberized gloves just to service the damned thing since it became obvious that the boards weren't going to dry themselves just sitting there- the coolant doesn't evaporate at all and you can't just take a towel to the raw PCB to clean it off. I landed up lining the inside of a large plastic bin with antistatic bags and doing the procedure there, which still made one hell of a mess.

    I still run that system, but if anything else ever breaks I'm probably going to sell it off rather then try to fix it again. I honestly can't imagine trying to deal with that sort of a setup on a datacenter scale. General liquid cooling is easy enough to deal with since you can just disconnect the cooling lines and pull out a module (which is precisely what IBM does with their extreme high-end end PowerPC based servers). Submerging the entire PCB is nasty business, and I wouldn't want to be the tech who has to go through that amount of trouble on a weekly or monthly basis.

  • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @03:31AM (#46711637) Journal

    It's also not the SGI that owned CRAY in the past, who used to make supercomputers immersed in 3M fluids.

    Anyway the summary desn't quite ring true. The fluids are great at getting heat efficiently away from the servers (better than air, if rather less convenient), but it still hsa to go somewhere after that.

  • Re:I wonder... (Score:5, Informative)

    by grouchomarxist ( 127479 ) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @03:46AM (#46711699)

    None of the articles I've seen mentioned which version of Novec is being used. They have a great variety: http://solutions.3m.com/wps/po... [3m.com]

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @06:13AM (#46712129) Homepage Journal

    There's still a minimum conductivity in molar water. But it's several orders of magnitude lower than than tap or bottled water.

    Again, primary conductivity of water is via impurities in the water, not the water itself.

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