LICAM 2022 Guest Blog: Data Centers and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

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On: August 26, 2022 Comments: 0
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As part of GRC’s 2022 Liquid Immersion Cooling Awareness Month, we are proud to share this guest blog from Mohsen Al-Aqeil, Managing Director with GRC partner Al Marjeia Trading Group. Thank you, Mohsen, for sharing your perspectives with our LICAM audience!

It's difficult for the deadly wildfires to go undetected now that climate change is no longer a laughing matter; we've all seen the devastation caused by global warming all over the world. In 2019, the entire world witnessed the wildfire that struck Siberia, which was considered the third largest wildfire in the twenty-first century covering an area of more than 7,000,000 acres. Roughly the size of Belgium, the wildfire affected air quality and disrupted air travel in nearby cities, with smoke reaching as far as Alaska and the western coast of Canada. That is in addition to the Arctic fires or the so-called "zombie fires," all of which are directly related to the significant influence on the climate brought on by the rise in greenhouse gas emissions globally.

Energy, despite the critical role it plays in the global economy, has the highest percentage of green-house gas emissions, according to the EU Environment Agency. Yet, with today's lifestyle, it's unavoidable to accidentally harm mother nature while going about one's daily business. Demand is on the rise and all businesses are trying to satisfy this demand by applying more technology and constant modernization of the whole supply chain to ensure seamless operations. However, without a strong ICT foundation, advancements in the ICT sector's technical facets like artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, virtual reality, 5G, etc. will only be possible in theory. According to an Enerdata analysis done in 2018, ICT, as an industry, accounts for between 5% and 9% of total world power consumption, while Lancaster University showed in a study completed in 2021 that it is responsible for between 2% and 3.9% of total global greenhouse emissions.

The Data Center is the essential physical component of the burgeoning and ongoing Industrial Revolution 4.0. According to a Supermicro research study done in 2018, data centers account for around 3% of worldwide power consumption, and 2% of total global greenhouse emissions. Cooling is not only an energy-intensive component of data center life, it is also a critical aspect in managing the excessive heat created by IT equipment and providing flawless operation, since hot spots are regarded as the primary "electronics killer". With the increased demand for digital services, it has become more difficult for traditional cooling systems to accommodate the exponential growth in server density to cope with the aforementioned applications from AI/ML, Big Data, IoT, VR/AR, and so on, complicating how data centers are designed and run.

But thankfully, there is a solution: liquid immersion cooling, which drastically simplifies how a data center is now conceived and built by eliminating the need for energy-intensive air conditioners, huge generators, and raised floors.

There are two techniques to liquid immersion cooling: single-phase and two-phase. In a system that uses the two-phase immersion cooling system, servers are enclosed inside a bath of specially manufactured fluorocarbon-based liquid. Heat from the servers readily boils the surrounding fluid since the fluid has a low boiling point of roughly 49°C. The boiling of the liquid induces a phase transition from liquid to gas. The vapor is then condensed back to liquid by water-cooled condenser coils fitted into the top of the sealed racks. The condensed liquid drips back into the bath of fluid to be recycled through the system.

In contrast, servers in a single-phase immersion cooling system are mounted vertically in a coolant bath of a hydrocarbon-based dielectric fluid akin to mineral oil. Heat is transmitted to the coolant by direct contact with server components, as with its two-phase cousin. However, unlike two-phase immersion cooling, the coolant does not evaporate. Instead, it remains liquid and is cooled by a heat exchanger in a cooling distribution unit (CDU). When we speak single-phase immersion cooling, who else but GRC "THE IMMERSION COOLING AUTHORITY" comes to mind?

GRC has made dependability one of the ICEraQ® and ICEtank® systems' defining characteristics since pioneering single-phase immersion cooling in 2009. Both of these systems require very little maintenance and can reliably cool 200 kW/rack using the patented dielectric coolant, ElectroSafe®, which is completely inert, non-conductive, non-flammable, non-corrosive, and does not need to be replaced during the life of a normal data center.

Data on hardware reliability for ICEraQ and ICEtank systems demonstrate a considerable improvement in Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) as compared to standard air-cooled data centers. This growth is due in part to strong collaboration with important OEM partners like Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, 2CRSI, iXSystems, AMAX, and Supermicro.


When it comes to running expenditures, hardware dependability, complexity, and up-front costs, single phase immersion cooling has an advantage over two phase immersion cooling, in addition to the environmental element, which is the purpose of this article Single phase immersion cooling, notably GRC's ElectroSafe the proprietary coolant, is Hydrocarbon-based, giving it an advantage over Fluorocarbon-based two-phase coolants such as 3M Novec in terms of Global Warming Potential (GWP). For those who are unfamiliar with the prior phrase, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced Global Warming Potential to facilitate comparisons of the global warming consequences of different gases. In more detail, it is a measurement of the amount of energy that 1 ton of a gas will absorb over a certain amount of time in comparison to 1 ton of carbon dioxide (CO2). The greater the GWP, the more a particular gas heats the Earth in comparison to CO2 during that time period. For GWPs, a 100-year time frame is typically chosen. GWPs provide a uniform unit of measurement, allowing analysts to add up emissions estimates for various gases (for example, to construct a national GHG inventory) and policymakers to evaluate emissions reduction prospects across sectors and gases.

Last but not least, it is understood from a logical standpoint that mankind will continue to run in the race of technology since connectivity is highly vital nowadays just to meet the needs of modern everyday living. But we can do it sensibly with little or no impact on the environment since we still have to live on Earth and bear the consequences until we are able to conquer other planets, at which point we should seriously consider whether we want to start afresh.