liquid cooling

Building a Foundation: Strategic Architecture of Liquid Immersion Cooling Racks

On: August 11, 2023 Comments: 0
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Cooling is one of the most critical aspects of a data center to get right. And as cooling systems try to keep pace with growing heat emissions, the fundamental technology behind cooling has progressed. Each innovation brings greater performance and lower costs. Liquid cooling marks a significant improvement over previous systems and liquid immersion cooling, in particular, is the best choice to maximize the benefits of such improvement.

Conventional air cooling runs constantly and uses a lot of power. But in liquid immersion cooling, IT hardware is submerged in a fluid to keep it cool. As a result, this system has far-reaching impacts on cost, performance, and environmental friendliness. In fact, data centers are already seeing huge improvements to business operations and finances.

Liquid immersion cooling also has the potential to handle the heat-intensive processes driving our economy. For instance, the system can handle the heat from high-performance computing (HPC), electric vehicles, manufacturing equipment, and 5G infrastructure.

Liquid cooling
Source: Shutterstock

The Place of Liquid Cooling in IT

Liquid immersion cooling shows a 1,000-fold improvement in heat-removing capacity over air. For data centers, this massive advantage translates into more server capacity, quieter operations, and much lower total cost of ownership (TCO). Simply put, facilities use less electricity and infrastructure when they upgrade.

The architecture you choose for deploying this cooling system can maximize the productivity of your data center. The most demanding workloads in IT are those that will gain the most from liquid immersion cooling. So, as you consider the power output of your data center—both at present and in the future—it’s important to also ensure you have a cooling system in place to meet your needs.

Data Center Cooling: What It Is and What It Really Means

Data center cooling is the process of removing harmful heat from servers and other IT components. Cooling uses significant financial and environmental resources, so efficiency matters. There are several different categories of cooling techniques, and each implementation within a category will have its unique pros and cons.

The differences in broad category and specific implementation mean that data center cooling varies considerably in terms of performance and other metrics. Each server in each rack adds to the facility’s total heat load. A higher density of processing requires more cooling ability.

That density is affected by how many devices are in each rack and by the power each device uses. As servers with more chips become the norm, it’s imperative to choose a more capable cooling architecture.

What’s more, server density has been on a dramatic uptick over recent years, with new generations of processors drawing far more power and emitting far more heat. Data centers also increase power density to run new applications such as artificial intelligence (AI). The industry has now reached a level where traditional air cooling is literally unable to keep up with rising heat emissions.

Liquid immersion cooling is the best solution. This system can manage much higher heat output, so it raises the ceiling on rack density. The technical capacity of a data center cooling system is, therefore, essential in selecting the right kind of cooling architecture for your facility’s needs.

The 3 Categories of Data Center Cooling

There are three main types of data center cooling:

  1. Air cooling
  2. Direct liquid-to-chip (DLC) cooling
  3. Liquid immersion cooling

Air cooling is the kind found in most older data centers. It involves blowing large volumes of air over the IT equipment. As heat is produced, it’s transferred into the air, then blown out of the building.

DLC augmented air cooling is a compromise between air cooling and true liquid immersion cooling. This system pipes a cooling liquid to specific processors to enhance the effects of air cooling. It’s more complex, riskier, and less efficient than genuine liquid immersion cooling.

Rack-based single-phase immersion cooling submerges the server racks in a tank of dielectric fluid designed to be safe for IT equipment. As the hardware produces heat, it’s sent into the fluid for removal.

Unlike other cooling technologies, liquid immersion removes heat from every hardware component. What’s more, liquid immersion moves heat away far more effectively than air, making it the more desirable solution.

Different types of cooling.
Source: Shutterstock

The Importance of Choosing the Right Cooling Architecture for Your Data Center

Selecting the most appropriate cooling architecture for a data center has a profound effect on business outcomes. Each type of cooling has different upfront and ongoing costs, as well as its own maximum cooling ability. Cooling systems can also affect the data center’s safety and noise levels, its use of resources, and its emission of toxins.

The high efficiency of liquid immersion cooling makes it ideal for both new data centers and retrofits. For instance, liquid-cooled data centers with Green Revolution Cooling (GRC) racks cost half as much in terms of capital and operational expenditures. This technology also raises the cooling capacity enough to accommodate today’s and tomorrow’s power-hungry processors, such as multi-core graphics accelerators. You can even combine it with alternative architectures to add high-density racks.

By contrast, air cooling makes sense only for legacy and lower-power deployments, since it costs more and cools far less efficiently. The compromise of DLC cooling has a few niche applications, but generally its complexity, cost, and loss of performance relative to liquid immersion cooling limit its applicability.

Use the Optimal Liquid Cooling Solution for Your Data Center

Each data center needs a cooling solution to prevent overheating and damage. The cooling system represents one of the biggest investments in a facility, and your choice of cooling architecture has major long-term implications.

Single-phase liquid immersion cooling is the simplest and most powerful design for data center cooling. It effortlessly removes far more heat than less capable architectures such as air cooling. With GRC’s liquid immersion tanks, your data center can save around half of the cooling system’s total cost of ownership while supporting higher rack densities. Liquid immersion cooling is also a greener technology that’s ideal for your sustainability initiatives.

Contact GRC today to deploy next-generation data center cooling architecture.