The tide is turning for liquid cooling


Companies are increasingly moving their operations to the cloud, it’s clear that we are going to continue to need more, and bigger, data centres for the foreseeable future. In 2018, it is predicted that there will be a 21% annual increase in data centre construction. The Edge is offering many opportunities for medium and smaller scale data centres to be delivered to the buildings and locations in which they are most needed. The move will maximise speed, protect data sovereignty as well as manage critical applications that can’t be in the cloud. Small, or large, change is coming. 

The great news of growth brings challenges in our built environment, in managing growth, in accommodating new technologies which are driving the need for more GPU driven processing; adding to complexity and heat loads in data centres. There are also environmental downsides. We all know that statistics in electricity consumption but when you add water into that the industry will be challenged. We will become a target for activists and campaigners.

With its latest release, Sheffield based liquid cooling developer, Iceotope claims it has the answer. The company’s KU:L Sistem combines the energy efficiency of immersion cooling with the ease of use, familiarity and scalability of current air-cooled technology to give you the world’s first 1U immersion cooled server.

Backed by Schneider Electric, the company has seen the technology capable of delivering substantial Capex and TCO benefits, it is their first product release aimed squarely at the scale data centre market, be it cloud, enterprise or Edge.

Despite its history and association with gamers and hobbyists, liquid cooling is increasingly recognised by data centre professionals as the technology that will enable current growth trends to keep pace with our demands. Unlike other liquid cooling techniques whereby either all of the heat generating electronics are immersed in coolant, generally some form of mineral oil or using cold plates (both of which have severe limitations in the data centre), Iceotope has developed a technology using a primary coolant which is an inert, dielectric, fluorinated fluid. This coolant is Factory Mutual approved, non-flammable, non-toxic and non-corrosive. It is not subject to phase change or evaporation.

KU:L Sistem’s form factor can be retrofitted into any existing rack and work alongside existing air-cooled kit. After installation into the rack, the server is connected via a manifold to facility water to allow heat transfer and recapture. This is great if you were looking to test out liquid cooling without redesigning your whole data centre but even better for those looking to invest in new data centres. Aside from a connection to facility water, the system requires none of the additional infrastructure and complexity encountered in air-cooled environments: no hot and cold aisle containment, no lowered floors or raised ceilings, no air-filtration, no air-conditioning; and Iceotope can turn any hot, dusty room into a fully-fledged datacentre. This means that not only does this technology save on operational expense, it can also cut the capital outlay required for a new data centre.

In terms of density, Iceotope can deploy 43.2Kw of IT in a 42U rack with no need to leave spaces for air to flow. Additionally, racks can be deployed back-to-back to make best use of all available space. Another key advantage, one that will be of interest to anybody that has had to spend a day or two wearing ear defenders to protect themselves from the deafening noise of fans and air-conditioning, is the noise, or lack thereof, produced by KU:L Sistem. The servers operate in virtual silence even when under heavy load. As well as being great for cutting down the decibel level inside a data centre, the lack of noise means they are also suited to Edge deployments in remote offices and comms rooms.

Iceotope claims its system is able to reduce both capital and operational expenditure, save space and energy and deliver the density and scalability required by modern data centres. While air-cooling hasn’t quite taken its last breath, the tide is clearly turning in favour of liquid cooling.