The quest for better technologies to cool data centers reached new urgency this year, driven by the popularity of data-hungry AI and IoT applications like generative content and precision medicine.
I believe the time is right for a set of new liquid cooling technology applications that before now may not have been economically viable. They are Precision Immersion Liquid Cooling and Direct-to-Chip Negative Pressure Liquid Cooling.
The tipping point for mass market liquid-cooled data servers is imminent.
Next-level cooling solutions
Avnet Integrated is intimately familiar with these trends and the growing problems presented by limited natural resources where data centers and edge computing are concerned. The pressure to reduce energy consumption, space constraints and water usage–all are coming together to move us to next-level cooling solutions.
The latest chips have a thermal design power (TDP) of 400W or more. High-power graphics processing units (GPUs) are now being used for compute. According to Data Center Dynamics (and other sources), data centers consume 3-5% of the world’s energy. The U.S. Department of Energy has shared that data centers account for 2% of total electricity consumption in the U.S. and data center cooling accounts for up to 40% of data center usage overall.
What all of this means is that we must bring to market better ways to keep compute and storage cool. Current air-cooling technologies just can’t keep up.
Tomorrow’s data centers will deploy primordial enemies–fluid and electronics–in new ways to protect our environment. They’ll reduce the power consumption of data centers and recycle one of our most precious resources: water.
WHY LIQUID COOLING?
THE COOLING DILEMMA
A FEW BASICS
Before we delve into the details of the newer technologies, let’s cover a few basics about liquid cooling.
How does it work?
At its most essential, liquid cooling works by transferring heat from a server’s hot components to a liquid coolant. The coolant then circulates through heat exchangers, where it’s cooled by air or by another coolant. It then circulates back to the server and the process repeats.
What are the benefits?
Liquid cooling improves server performance and reliability by reducing heat-related throttling. It could eliminate the need for large fans and the associated noise. More higher-performing servers can be installed into smaller and smaller spaces at reduced weight. Servers can also be moved closer to data sources, reducing latency and enabling the Edge. And, most importantly, it reduces the amount of energy needed to cool servers.
What are the drawbacks?
Liquid cooling systems can be more expensive than air-cooled systems initially. However, the advantages and cost savings become apparent with TCO (total cost of ownership) calculations. Overall, less data center cooling equipment is required, with denser systems racked in smaller spaces. There could be less mechanical infrastructure required with reduced need for air filtration, which is cheaper to maintain long-term.
Collaborating with our partner, Schneider Electric, Avnet has been working for more than four years to address these problems by focusing on how to operationalize and mass produce liquid-cooled servers. Our role is to integrate server technology with liquid cooling and related infrastructure, and to support the solutions in the field for OEMs.
We have been working with Iceotope to help bring to market their Precision Immersion Cooling Solution on Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Lenovo platforms. We are also working with Dell and Chilldyne, which developed a Direct-to-Chip Negative Pressure Liquid Cooling solution. Intel has been working closely with Avnet by providing benchmarking assistance, joint customer engagement, trade show collaboration and thermal engineering expertise, among other activities.
Iceotope’s solution takes air-cooled servers and converts them to liquid-cooled servers by immersing CPU and other critical components in a small amount of dielectric fluid in a sealed chassis design. Chilldyne’s solution converts air cooled servers by adding proprietary cold plates and related negative pressure equipment.
See how Iceotope’s solution works.
See how Chilldyne’s solution works.
In order to promote the benefits of liquid cooling and advance it in the market, Avnet believes that there are many challenges to be addressed regardless of the solution or platform. These challenges include:
- Generating benchmark data that demonstrates energy and water savings, in addition to the possible reduction in noise
- Assisting companies to implement new technologies quickly and efficiently
- Helping customers to see the performance benefits with their own workloads
- Minimizing the perceived risk from both a financial and operational perspective
- Ensuring that there will be a support ecosystem that takes the technology out of the lab and makes it enterprise-ready
Addressing the challenges
Several organizations within Avnet have been working to address these challenges. Avnet’s engineering organization has been working with IP providers to provide scale and production recommendations. We are assisting by regionalizing supply chains and engaging with industry certification organizations (UL FCC, CE). Our Services organization is creating programs for liquid cooling end-to-end support (replacement parts programs, entitlement management, call center support, forward stocking locations, technician and parts dispatch, and on-site support).
Avnet company Witekio is developing an out-of-band management (OOBM) solution with one of our partners to help enable the monitoring and management of liquid cooled servers similar to the management of air-cooled servers. This is key to deploying servers at the Edge.
Working with Digital Realty, we are addressing the challenges of market acceptance. Avnet is planning to leverage its recently announced Virtual Platform program to establish a liquid cooling test bed at Digital Realty’s Advanced Technology Lab in Ashburn, Virginia. The platform could be used for benchmarking purposes and for ongoing customer testing, virtually or on site. The Advanced Technology Lab will be ideal as it will be a visit-friendly facility that will enable customers to see the technology in action.
WHY OPT FOR LIQUID-COOLING?
It takes expertise to build liquid cooled servers in volume, and to support and manage these servers in the field. Avnet is investing time and resources to get these solutions to market successfully.
LEADING EDGE OR BLEEDING EDGE?
We know that many customers still consider liquid cooling to be bleeding edge technology. They think it’s too risky. That’s why they’re watching the market to measure adoption rates and to determine the optimum time to jump in and invest in liquid cooling.
It takes expertise to build liquid-cooled servers in volume, and to support and manage these servers in the field. Avnet is investing time and resources to get these solutions to market successfully. We know that customers with business-critical applications will not consider moving forward in a significant way without the following elements in place. Avnet is working to deliver:
- Simple and economical production
- A channel of distribution
- Warranty support and post-sales on-site services
- Industry-standard remote management that is similar to air-cooled
- Globally consistent execution
- Close partnership and collaboration with IP providers, OEMs and data center/environmental companies
Avnet’s objective is to become the mass production and service/support arm of our OEM partners to take liquid cooling out of the lab and into the market. Our ultimate goal is to reduce the consumption of natural resources by data center operations. We are open to engaging with all companies that share our vision and goal to bring liquid cooling to market as soon as possible.
Liquid-cooling performance benefits from Iceotope
The solution, developed in partnership with Intel and HPE, will help accelerate adoption by achieving game-changing reductions in power consumption and maintenance costs while maintaining or enhancing data center density.
- Delivers 40% power saving compared with other edge servers in its class
- Removes nearly 100% of heat generated by electronic components of a server
- Eliminates all water consumption
- Enhances server up time
- Speeds path to net zero
The server industry is increasingly focused on finding more efficient ways to cool data centers.
- Breaking boundaries in advanced cooling: Technologies of the future by Jason Zeiler and HPE, including the charts on "Why Liquid Cooling and "The Cooling Dilemma"
- Liquid Cooling for Data Centers and Edge Computing | Schneider Electric USA (se.com)
- COOLERCHIPS funded by the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy sets targets for reducing the energy needed to cool a typical data center
- Analysts forecast dramatic market growth for data center liquid cooling
Avnet Integrated is the integration arm of Avnet Inc. and offers comprehensive systems integration, business and service solutions. From an IoT gateway to a fully populated communications rack, Avnet Integrated delivers from six technology campuses across the world.