Distributing enterprise-grade computing to extreme edge locations offers many benefits to companies looking to capture and deliver real-time value at the data source. But with any benefit comes constraints. Unlike cloud computing, edge computing does not have access to infinite resources or multiple layers of protection. Aspects such as power availability, consistency, and resilience are a real challenge as is physical protection from people, particulate contaminants, and temperature fluctuations.
Developing a highly ruggedized micro data center solution that overcomes these deployment constraints is a challenge that has been taken up by the United Kingdom-based Iceotope, a designer specializing in server cooling systems. The result is a low-cost, ultra-efficient micro data center solution that offers zero-touch operation and low-touch maintenance with advanced out-of-band management (OOBM).
This highly scalable solution is single-server enabled and 100% sealed at the chassis level. It completely isolates and protects the critical IT from airborne contaminants and humidity. This enables the solution to be deployed virtually anywhere no matter how extreme the environment or the climatic conditions. Iceotope’s precision immersion cooling technology also removes the need for server fans and air-cooling infrastructure, allowing the system to operate in near silence and enabling deployment in noise-sensitive environments such as hospitals.
Suited for a new sustainability:
The age of the giant data center holding thousands and thousands of servers has seemingly peaked. “Data is growing exponentially, and data sets are becoming larger, more valuable, and harder to move,” says Pascal Holt, director of marketing for Iceotope. “Therefore, we need to take the analytics, hardware, and infrastructure to the data source. This shift means that the data center is no longer the center of our data, so the required hardware and infrastructure needs a complete rethink from a sustainability perspective.”
Data centers around the world use massive amounts of energy, equivalent to the output of 34 power plants per year. To meet national net zero emission goals and other climate initiatives, organizations are needed to look at how their servers impact the environment— and how to reduce that impact.
Performance and energy savings from a unit like the Ku:l Extreme are promising. An end user with ten 1,000W servers would normally budget 400W per server, or 4 kW total, for cooling. Using the HPE ProLiant DL380 Gen10 server encased by the Ku:l Extreme allows for 10 servers to be cooled using only 400 watts total, representing up to a 90% reduction in energy usage on average.
When compared with a traditional data center of similar size using tank cooling, water usage dramatically falls with the sealed cooling system of the Ku:l Extreme. “Water savings realized are actually 100% since the system doesn’t consume water,” says Holt. “And on top of that is the power savings by removing the cooling fans, which leads to 30% less CO2 emissions and an 84% reduction in summer cooling costs.”
Racing to the edge:
If computing power and data storage are leaving the centralized data center, where are they going? The answer is closer to end users, which is known as edge computing. The edge works as a location when there’s sufficient space for server storage, but operators need to be concerned about the server environment. A server’s delicate electronic components can be damaged by excessive temperature swings and air pollution.
“We saw a need for hardware that could perform reliably in extreme edge environments,” says Holt. “We’re figuring that by 2025 about 50% to 75% of enterprise computing will be done outside of a centralized data center. The question is, how is this done intelligently at the edge?” says Jason Matteson, director of product strategy for Iceotope. “We know machines will have to be enterprise ready, reliable, resilient, sealed, and highly energy efficient.
There are three defined areas where Iceotope believes the Ku:l Extreme can excel. “The hostile edge, where it’s operating in close contact with humans; the harsh edge, which is close to people and airborne contaminants; and the extreme edge, which is operating close to people, contaminants, the elements of nature, and in extreme temperatures that vary from –40°C to 70°C. An example would be the Arizona desert, where it can be very hot during the day and freezing at night,” says Holt.
Having a server that can be mounted on an offshore oil rig is now possible with the Ku:l Extreme. “You’ve got data coming up from instruments below the ocean floor and instead of that data being sent to a server on land, miles away, it can now stay and be computed directly on the rig, regardless of the conditions,” says Matteson. “The drill rig techs receive information about their oil mining operations in milliseconds.”
That speed is also critical in other applications. Edge devices scanning products for imperfections on a factory assembly line can help machines perform adjustments and create less waste. And for autonomous vehicles to operate efficiently and safely, edge computing will have to be in place on street corners or power poles to manage traffic. In both cases, there’s a need for sealed, high-performance systems impervious to the elements or air quality.
The future is bright
To complete the Ku:l Extreme project, Iceotope looked for a partner that could supply a high-performance server as well as the technical expertise to make the innovative cooling system perform as designed. They ultimately approached HPE OEM about using the HPE ProLiant DL380 Gen10 server for the project.
The server’s heat sinks and fans, used to dissipate excess heat in an air-cooled system, are removed in assembly, and parts that facilitate the new precision liquid cooling system are then installed. HPE OEM developed unique firmware that allows the HPE ProLiant DL380 Gen10 server to operate fanless in the new chassis. By partnering with HPE OEM, Iceotope met its goal of creating a high-performance micro data center that could thrive in virtually any environment.
“With this technology coming online, the barrier for enterprise compute at the edge has been broken,” says Matteson. “We can deliver enterprise-class, high-performance computing virtually anywhere.”
Besides the advantage of improving on data center density and deficiencies at the edge with this technology, its energy efficiency and green capabilities make it a sign that edge computing is ready for climate challenges. “The dielectric fluids we use are biodegradable, non-toxic, and have zero global warming potential,” says Matteson.
The first Ku:l Extreme chassis were assembled by Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Iceotope partner Avnet in Phoenix. “That’s been an advantage of our partnership with HPE OEM. They have relationships with so many companies in this industry that we’re able to benefit from,” says Holt.
Nabanita Maji, Hewlett Packard Enterprise