Better Servers through Technology: Submerge Your Infrastructure in Liquid-Cooling Enclosures

What are six words that every department head and director would like to hear from a company’s information-tech department? We can do it for less.

At the end of the day, IT spends a lot of company dollars on hardware, upgrades, and infrastructure. And a lot of that line item gets plowed into servers, power, and all the equipment that keeps the business’s data-backbone strong.

But what if you could bring a plan to the table that, for an initial outlay, promised some significant cutbacks in expenses going forward? Safe to say, it’d be music to management’s ears. One company, recently, has suggest that its server technology — submersion cooling arrays — can do just that. Let’s take a look at submersion cooling, and what one proponent of the system says it can do.

Rethinking Servers and Server Costs

Liquid Cooling EnclosuresWhat if your data center could skip the giant generator, the chiller, the raised floor, and all the hardware that typically goes with keeping servers cool? Green Revolution Cooling says why not — by replacing air-cooled technology with cutting-edge non-conductive-liquid submersion tanks.

“For years high-powered electrical transformers, supercomputers, and over-clocked gaming computers have harnessed the power of dielectric fluid submersion for high performance applications,” according to the company. “However, this performance has required a trade-off in the form of higher costs and/or cooling power.”

What Green Revolution proposes is to place servers inside enclosures filled with a white mineral-oil — clear, odorless, non-toxic, and low cost. The mixture is meant to drive down the price of keeping all a company’s central data hardware at the ideal temp. What follow are some estimates regarding how that will play out, post-installation:

— Energy Consumption: Compared to a standard air-conditioned rack system, Green Revolution’s submersion model could be capable of reducing cooling energy consumption of a typical data center by 90-95%. The company expects a client will cut its total data-center energy consumption by half.

— Buildout vs. Savings: Using GRC, data-center operators should be able to build a data center at lower cost, because the system’s cooling capability means a reduction in both average and peak power consumption. Since most build-out costs, when it comes to data centers, scale with peak power the payoff proposed is packed into the concept of reducing average data-center consumption by approximately 30% (and peak power by more, still). The company pegs the buildout-savings of a liquid-cooling center at 30%–40%, as compared to that of a traditional air-cooled arrangement.

Running Numbers

The fulcrum of a decision, when it comes the reasons an IT department might go with submersion cooling, is probably in the long game. The numbers on that would be along the following lines.

— Payback Period: GRC estimates that most refits of a data center with liquid-cooling technology would achieve savings paybacks within 3 years. A single 10kW, 42U Rack at 8 cents/kWh is estimated to typically save over $5,000 per year in electricity costs.

— Lifetime Savings: While GRC acknowledges that longterm savings will differ from company to company, the typical system is “$100,000 per 42U rack over 10 years, split between energy and infrastructure savings.”

So, that’s the rundown on what GRC says it can do. Of course, there’s a lot to consider, when thinking about a data-center switchover, or a new build. For more info about the system, and the deeper details of liquid-submersion tech, check this FAQ.

 

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