Technology developed by Iceotope, that wraps server components in synthetic modules of coolant, has been described by experts as "game changing"
UK company Iceotope has launched liquid-cooling technology, which it says surpasses what is achievable with purely water-based systems and could help cut data centre cooling costs from $788,400 (£469,446) to just $52,560.
Announced at the Supercomputing 2009 event in Portland, Oregon, Iceotope said that its "modular Liquid-Immersion Cooled Server" technology works by effectively wrapping each server in a cool-bag-like device, which focuses specifically on keeping the components inside the device cool - avoiding the costs and carbon associated with needing to cool the entire data centre.
"The Iceotope approach takes liquid – in the form of an inert synthetic coolant, rather than water – directly down to the component level," the company said. "It does this by immersing the entire contents of each server in a “bath” of coolant within a sealed compartment, creating a cooling module."
As well as synthetic coolants, the system also uses water to channel the excess heat produced by server components outside of the data centre and into the atmosphere. Energy-conscious companies may also choose to recycle this excess heat to help warm offices during the winter, for example, instead of simply expelling it into the air.
Data Centre Power & Cooling specialist Steve O’Donnell, managing director EMEA and senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) - who is due to speak at the eWEEK Europe UK webcast on green data centres - commented on the Iceotope system on his blog. According to O'Donnell, the Iceotope approach is "game changing".
"Iceotope have developed a complete solution that overcomes the 21st century data centre problem – what do we do with the heat? Now the problem will be – what do we do with the data centre?," he said.
Iceotope is not the first company to hit on the potential of liquid cooling. The approach has been used historically to cool large supercomputer and mainframe systems but, speaking earlier this year, Doug Neilson - a consultant in IBM's systems and technology group - said the approach could be used more widely by businesses looking to become more energy efficient. "We'll see a return to liquid-cooling in most IT solutions," he said at the time.
Figures cited by Iceotope show that the average air-cooled data centre with around 1000 servers costs around $788,400 (£469,446) to cool over three years. The Iceotope system claims to eliminate the need for CRAC units and chillers by connecting the servers in the synthetic cool bags to a channel of warm water that transfers the heat outside the facility. This so-called “end to end liquid” cooling means that a data centre, fully equipped with Iceotope-cooled servers, could cut cooling costs to just $52, 560 - a 93 percent reduction, the company states.
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Liam Newcombe, director research & policy at Romonet - another UK start-up focusing on cutting data centre costs - said that the Iceotope approach tackles the fundamental problems associated with air-cooled data centres. “It is increasingly clear that as demand for high-efficiency/high-density data centres increases, a substitute for air cooling is required,” he said. “Of the different approaches that we have seen, the Iceotope direct liquid immersion seems to have clear benefits in terms of thermal performance and operational management.”
Set up by in 2006 by Newcombe and Zahl Limbuwala, Romonet is currently focused on commercialising an open sourced data centre simulator it developed in conjunction with the British Computer Society and the Carbon Trust.
As well as helping to cut costs and wasted energy associated with air cooling, Iceotope also believes its technology will help reduce the size of data centres. As more servers can now be packed into a smaller space and be kept relatively cool, the company estimates its approach will cut the space needed for servers by 84 percent.
“We have spent 18 months developing this technology in stealth mode, with input from a number of interested customers,” said Dan Chester, chief executive of Iceotope. “We are delighted with the results we are able to achieve and are looking forward to demonstrating the system at the Supercomputing event. We believe that we will see a huge growth in the use of liquid-cooled servers as people see the ease with which these systems can be deployed.”
The company has not revealed who it is partnering with yet but a large server maker would need to be involved as the Iceotope system requires the "cool-bags" to be installed into the server housing themselves - potentially at the manufacturing stage.
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