what is HPC

The Future of HPC and Immersion Cooling: What’s Ahead?

On: April 23, 2024 Comments: 0
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High-performance computing (HPC) has been pivotal in accelerating scientific research and facilitating innovations. In fact, recent projections show the HPC market is expected to grow to $49.9 billion by 2027.

But what exactly is HPC? And what does it take to maintain it?

HPC is the use of advanced computing techniques to process big data and solve complex calculations at fast speeds. In recent years, high-performance computing has been used for climate modeling, drug discovery, and even genomics. It’s also been helpful in virtual prototyping for engineering industries and risk analysis for the financial sector.

But HPC demands intensive processing power. It can quickly generate heat, which degrades performance and reduces hardware reliability. So, it’s crucial to implement an efficient cooling system. In this guide, we’ll discuss the benefits of immersion cooling systems for HPC and the future of the industry.

The Development of Immersion Cooling in HPC

The use of immersion cooling dates back to the 1800s, though at the time the technique was only used for the thermal management of electric systems like transformers. The first recorded mention of using this practice on computers wasn’t until 1966, when Oktay Sevgin of IBM used dielectric fluids to cool computers. In 1968, two other employees from IBM, Richard Chu and John Seely, patented an immersion cooling system for modularly packaged components.

At this time, high-performance computing was in its infancy—but it was quickly growing. As supercomputers advanced, they required more maintenance and better ventilation to keep them as efficient as possible. But methods like air-based cooling and liquid cooling weren’t enough to dissipate the heat from densely packed electronic components. To address this, Cray Research, LLC Founder Seymour R. Cray Jr. conceptualized the immersion cooling technique for high-density electronic assembly.

what is HPC

Using Cray’s approach, the electronic components of HPC are submerged in a dielectric fluid with high thermal conductivity. This allows for rapid heat dissipation and eliminates the need for air circulation. It also makes it easy for higher hardware densities to maintain their computational power and efficiency.

This innovation has marked a significant shift in the HPC industry and established new benchmarks for performance and reliability. It also paved the way for advancements in cooling technologies across industries.

Today, companies like Green Revolution Cooling (GRC) have become torchbearers for immersion cooling innovation. For example, GRC rebooted the open bath immersion cooling concept in 2009 to handle higher power densities and operate in a cleaner, quieter, more cost-effective way.

Benefits of Immersion Cooling for HPC

Immersion cooling offers many benefits for high-performance computing environments. It’s an increasingly attractive solution for organizations that want to maximize performance, efficiency, and sustainability.

Let’s explore some of these benefits further.

  • Enhanced Thermal Efficiency: Liquid has a higher heat capacity and thermal conductivity, so it can absorb and dissipate heat more efficiently. This ensures hardware components stay within optimal operating temperatures and prevents thermal throttling.
  • Improved Energy Consumption: Because immersion cooling doesn’t rely on fans and air conditioning units, it minimizes energy consumption and overall operational costs. What’s more, immersion cooling systems have an impressive power usage effectiveness (PUE) of 1.2. This is 96% more efficient than air cooling systems, which often have a PUE ratio of 2.
  • Minimized Noise Pollution: There are no moving parts involved in the immersion cooling process, so this system tends to operate as silently as possible. This reduction in noise levels offers a quieter and more conducive working environment for data center staff.
  • Longer Hardware Lifespan: Using immersion cooling for HPC enables you to maintain stable operating temperatures for your hardware. This prevents thermal stress and reduces wear and tear on hardware components like CPUs, GPUs, and memory modules. As a result, you can reduce maintenance costs and enhance the longevity of your HPC infrastructure.
  • High Scalability: Immersion cooling architectures can accommodate higher hardware densities within the same physical footprint. This scalability uses both resources and space efficiently and facilitates seamless growth without compromising performance.
  • Reduced Carbon Footprint: Since it maximizes HPC efficiency while lowering electricity consumption, immersion cooling can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of your infrastructure. Organizations that adopt this kind of cooling system can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship.
what is HPC

Market Trends and Growth

Immersion cooling technology has come a long way since its inception, emerging as a transformative thermal management solution in data center and HPC environments. In addition, the use of this method has extended beyond traditional HPC settings. With its increasing popularity, experts project the immersion cooling market to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.2% from 2022 to 2030. This would amount to a market value of $1.7 billion.

Recent data shows this can be attributed to various factors. For instance, the expansion of Internet of Things (IoT) technology, the rise in quantum computing applications, and the popularity of cryptocurrency. As the world embraces these technologies, we can also expect immersion cooling to be at the forefront of ongoing sustainability efforts within the tech industry.

HPC Cooling Challenges and Considerations

Switching to an immersion cooling system for your HPC infrastructure can pose several challenges. After all, this kind of system requires a different approach to hardware design and deployment. Organizations that intend to adopt it will need to understand its deployment and maintenance requirements.

One of the primary perceived hurdles in adopting immersion cooling for HPC is the upfront investment. That is, you must either retrofit existing data center infrastructure or build new facilities designed for immersion cooling. Acquiring specialized equipment—such as immersion tanks, pumps, and fluid management systems—does come at a cost.

Upon further inspection, however, this need not be the challenge it seems. The cost factor impacts businesses retrofitting infrastructure that previously depended on air-cooling systems. If you’re building a new data center, it can actually prove less expensive to install immersion cooling from the get-go. And even if the cost of retrofitting seems daunting upfront, the savings over time from reduced energy output will more than equalize the expenditure.

What is HPC

Perhaps of more salience are the technical considerations. First of all, the system you choose should be compatible with your existing infrastructure. It should accommodate your HPC’s different components, such as servers, GPUs, CPUs, and storage devices. This can help minimize implementation risks and ensure long-term interoperability.

Compatibility aside, you should also look into the integration process with your existing data center infrastructure. Try to evaluate how much time and effort it would take to manage power distribution and networking, among other things. This can help you calculate overall implementation costs more accurately.

Due to the increasing use of big data, HPC infrastructures are under pressure to keep up with the demand. So, the immersion cooling system you invest in must also be scalable enough to continually adapt to the changing workload demands.

Immersion Cooling—A Solution For Sustainable HPC

The use of immersion cooling in HPC environments signifies a transformative shift toward enhanced performance and sustainability. As it becomes a more popular choice among data centers, it can encourage innovation among industry stakeholders and drive advancements in cooling technology. Looking ahead, this may lead to the development of novel cooling architectures and thermal management best practices.

Stay ahead of the curve by investing in immersion cooling technology. Contact GRC today to discuss your data center cooling needs.