Servers and liquid cooling

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If you’ve ever been in a hot server room where noisy fans were whistling from all corners of the server racks, then perhaps you may have wondered to yourself, Isn’t there a better way to cool this place?

As it turns out, there are different ways to cool servers. ServerWatch.com published an article about these alternative methods of temperature control in a server room.

The first method is liquid cooling. This is the “coolest” method, in my opinion, because submarines use the same technique to control the heat from their nuclear reactors. This process works by piping cold water or refrigerant through the server racks or even directly inside the server itself. One system, SprayCool M-series by ISR, squirts coolant right onto the CPU.

An advantage of liquid cooling is that it allows for greater server density in a single room. Water, according to the above article, has “3,500 times the heat transfer capability per unit of volume compared to air”, and if that heat is trapped in liquid form, it’s not going to warm up the air in the server room. Thus, more servers can be packed into a smaller space without melting the ceiling.

Liquid cooling can save on energy costs, as well. IBM’s Data Center Cooling Solution controls the temperature in large-scale clusters by cooling the heated water during the night, when electricity is cheaper. Some companies even offer liquid cooled hard drives that cut down on the sound created by their spinning parts (you can also replace HDDs with SSDs to achieve the same effect).

The other alternative method of cooling servers that the article described was not as “cool”, in my humble opinion. Some data centers are cooled by letting in outside air into the server room. This process is monitored automatically and optimizes the intermingling of inside (hot) and outside (cold) air to keep the servers at the right temperature.

Although we at ICC do not sell any liquid-cooled servers ourselves, I couldn’t resist writing about them. They are a niche technology and probably wouldn’t be the right choice for many server rooms (fans, after all, are much more economical). But they’re so darn cool!

Comments

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  1. [...] fans. IBM’s new data center in Zurich, Switzerland uses liquid cooling to do the same job. In a previous post, I talked about liquid cooling as an alternative to air cooling, but the new data center in Zurich [...]

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