Data Center Cold Wars — Part 1: Air-Cooling Versus Single-Phase Immersion Cooling

Air-Based Cooling vs. Liquid-Based Cooling

Submitted by Michael Isberto, Colocation America
On: November 20, 2018 Comments: 0

Data centers are an important part of the world we live in, and those who work in the business know the importance of cooling this ecosystem. The servers that hold all of our vital data run 24 hours a day and 7 days a week at extremely excessive rates. The debate for which method cools servers best will continue to be an important topic. This article will take a look at how cooling systems have changed over the years and compare the differences between liquid vs air cooling.

Liquid vs Air Cooling

There are two conventional ways to cool a data center: air-based cooling and liquid-based cooling. The first method within air-based cooling is the “Cold Aisle/Hot Aisle” system. This idea is fairly simple and focuses on separating the cold air from the hot air. The way this is done is by facing the cold sides of the server cabinets away from the hot sides. This produces a cooling convection system where the server cabinets can cool themselves. This convection system isn’t always efficient, so the data center managers need to push more cold air into rooms.

Another air-based system is called “cold or hot air containment.” This method advances the cold aisle/hot aisle method by actually containing the servers, so the hot and cold air don’t mix. Driving the air directly from the CRAC unit helps achieve this method. Although this system works satisfactory—this method still has problems with hot spots within the server.

The last system within the realm of air-based cooling is “in-rack heat extraction.” This system aims to accomplish the same goal of eliminating hot air from the server racks but does so by adding cooling compressors and chillers right into the rack.

Air-based methods are an older technology. Some data centers have found it more cost effective to use the newer liquid-based systems of cooling. The first method within liquid-based cooling is “water-cooled racks.” This method uses water to cool along the hot side of the cabinet bringing the temperature down. The water is confined within basins and flows from tower pumps through pipes alongside the servers, but does not touch the components of the servers. The water-cooled racks system works very well, but still has the dangerous possibilities of leaks.

The Future: Immersion Cooling

The last method we will go over is “liquid immersion cooling” system. This method actually has severs submerged into a liquid coolant which cools the components down. GRC has patented this method of cooling technology.

Besides Microsoft’s underwater data center, “Project Natick,” and Iceland’s concept data skyscraper in the middle of an ice field, there hasn’t been many advancements in the data center cooling world.

Many data centers are still using traditional air-based systems. We may never get to store our important data in an underwater data center or a skyscraper tower in the middle of Iceland, but GRC’s Cooling solution is groundbreaking and can offer efficiency improvements compared to the traditional air-based technology. We have a patented liquid immersion cooling technology called ELECTROSAFE™ that breaks through the limitations of other methods to deliver a dramatic improvement in data center performance and economics.

Immersing servers in liquid has shown to improve rack density, cooling capacity, data center design, and location options. Our proven, highly flexible and simple design makes it easy to quickly build and run a super-efficient operation and respond rapidly to business demands, without over-provisioning.

It’s the most efficient cooling system on the market for any data center operation – including yours.

Electrosafe™ has far greater heat retention than air—1,200x more to be exact. Which means it would take 1,200 times the amount of heat to raise the temperature of the liquid. Giving users 10-20% server load reduction, and a total peak and average power reduction of 50%. Potentially cutting data centers costs by up to 50%.


Our important data may never be stored in an underwater data center or in a skyscraper in the middle of Iceland, but immersion cooling can definitely be a great option for all to consider when storing and protecting one’s data. Many people believe that data will be the currency of the future. If it isn’t already—data will be considered similar to gold and will be taken care of as such. The most valuable companies are no longer Texaco and Standard Oil but are shifting towards data-rich companies such as Apple and Google. In more ways than it is now, our world will inevitably be data-driven. You should be at the forefront of this coming trend and know your options when it comes to storing data. Immersion cooling is the present and the future.

This article was written by Michael Isberto. Isberto is the Blog Director and Content Writer for Colocation America. He received his B.A. in Communication Studies with an emphasis in Public Relations at CSUSB. Isberto is a Communication professional with additional experience in Public Relations, Marketing, and Social Media.

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