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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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  • I doubt it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by enriquevagu ( 1026480 ) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @03:39AM (#46711665)

    (sorry for the duplicated posting; the previous one was cut because of problems with the html marks)

    In order to obtain a 90% reduction in the energy bill, cooling must account for 90% of the power of the DC. This implies a PUE [wikipedia.org] >= 10. As a reference, 5 years ago virtually any DC had a PUE lower than 3. Nowadays, PUE lower than 1.15 can be obtained easily. As a referecence, Facebook publishes the instantaneous PUE of one of its DC in Prineville [facebook.com], which at the moment is 1.05. This implies that any savings in cooling would reduce the bill, at much, in a factor of 1.05 (1/1.05 = 0.9523).

    On the other hand, I believe that this is not the first commertial offer for a liquid-cooled server, Intel was already considering two years ago [datacenterknowledge.com], and the idea has been discussed in other forums [electronics-cooling.com] for several years. I can't remember right now which company that was actually selling these solutions, but I believe it was already in the market.

  • by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashikiNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday April 10, 2014 @03:53AM (#46711719) Homepage

    Sure, mineral oil, cooking oil, fluorinert distilled water, bunch of other esoteric fluids. The real thing that it comes down to the heat transfer between the component and the fluid itself. And this newer stuff is apparently leaps above flurorinert, especially besides that it won't kill you quite so quickly and won't destroy the ozone layer quite so badly. You thought that freon was bad? Fluorinert makes freon look like a glass of water in terms of reactivity.

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @04:05AM (#46711767) Homepage Journal

    Yep. Got to fiddle around with Fluorinert cooling years ago.

    Interesting, just not very practical.

    You really DO need a fully sealed system and ostensibly clean-room assembly. Because, while the coolant itself is non-conductive, any detritus that accumulates in the fluid after settling out of the environment ISN'T. That's the main thing about water (straight H2O) isn't conductive. It's all the other things in the water, minerals, dust, etc that's doing the conduction.

    Also, as noted, there's STILL going to be use of fans and water. Because you still need systems that extract the thermal energy from the liquid medium. You simply remove them from the main system chassis.

    It also doesn't change the fact that it's still a TERRIBLY inefficient way to cool the system. Unlike water cooling loops, where you have no more than maybe a pint or so of fluid cooling the major heat sources in the system, you have QUARTS of fluid basically covering everything. And you really have no good flow control, other than extremely high volume fluid exchange, which is energy inefficient in and of itself.

    That's PROBABLY what a lot of the board re-engineering is about. Centralizing all the thermally active devices into a centralized area to limit the volume of immersion coolant required and to simplify flow control.

  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @04:15AM (#46711803)

    Yes, it can. I've got a little bitcoin miner chip running right now as a proof of this. I'm not a bitcoin enthusiast, just wanted something hot and expendable to test immersion cooling on.

    There is one downside: Viscosity. It's thick stuff, so it takes a powerful pump to keep it actively circulating. It also tends to pool in spaces underneath components and anywhere not exposed to easy circulation, impeding cooling.

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

    by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @04:47AM (#46711919) Homepage Journal

    it can be an advantage, as long as it doesn't break down on boiling.

    that way the cpu can stay at 49c and the system can be built to not require pumps, just by piping the steam to a cooling tower and from tower back to servers. however of course this needs redesign of the server and components, like said.

  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @05:21AM (#46712011) Homepage

    Even though according to wonkypedia it has low GW potential and doesn't damage ozone, do we really want to be manufacturing more fluorinated hydrocarbons which almost never decay in the enviroment by themselves and just build up over time in the soil, plants and eventually us?

You can measure a programmer's perspective by noting his attitude on the continuing viability of FORTRAN. -- Alan Perlis