[Beowulf] Servers Too Hot? Intel Recommends a Luxurious Oil Bath

Greg Lindahl lindahl at pbm.com
Mon Sep 3 20:49:23 PDT 2012


I think the niche they have in mind is "server farms". The
Google/Facebook/whoever modern datacenter design that uses free air
cooling and hot/cold segregation and whatnot to get down to a SPUE of
1.15 doesn't leave much energy to cut outside the server. Getting rid
of the fans is a ~ 15% win. Whether that's worth a mess depends on how
big of a mess it is.

-- greg

On Mon, Sep 03, 2012 at 09:15:28AM -0400, Douglas Eadline wrote:
> 
> There was a previous discussion here. Curious to see Intel's
> interest in this tech. I assumed it is mostly used for edge cases.
> 
> http://beowulf.org/pipermail/beowulf/2012-March/029560.html
> 
> --
> Doug
> 
> 
> >
> > http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2012/08/servers-too-hot-intel-recommends-a-luxurious-oil-bath/
> >
> > Servers Too Hot? Intel Recommends a Luxurious Oil Bath
> >
> >     By Robert McMillan 08.31.12 4:51 PM
> >
> > You want to know a fast way to cool down a computer? Dunk it in a big tank
> > of
> > mineral oil.
> >
> > That’s a technique that Intel has been testing out over the past year,
> > running servers in little oil-filled boxes built by an Austin, Texas,
> > company
> > called Green Revolution Cooling. As Gigaom reported on Friday, it turns
> > out
> > that once you take out the PC’s fans and seal up the hard drives,
> > oil-cooling
> > a server works out pretty well.
> >
> > In its tests, Green Revolution’s CarnotJet cooling system used a lot
> > less
> > energy than their air-cooled counterparts, Dr. Mike Patterson, a power and
> > thermal engineer with Intel, tells Wired. Intel found that oil-cooled
> > systems
> > only needed another 2 or 3 percent of their power for cooling. That’s
> > far
> > less than your typical server, which has a 50 or 60 percent overhead. The
> > world’s most efficient data centers — those run by Google or Facebook,
> > for
> > example — can get that number down to 10 or 20 percent.
> >
> > Intel’s research is part of a much larger effort to significantly reduce
> > power consumption in the data center. Power is one of the most costly
> > aspects
> > of data center operation, particularly if you’re running the sort of
> > massive
> > computing facilities that underpin web services as popular as Google or
> > Facebook.
> >
> > Although it’s still considered a cutting-edge technology, Green
> > Revolution
> > Cooling hopes to have a big effect on data centers. As Green
> > Revolution’s
> > director of marketing David Banys sees it, an oil-cooled data center could
> > be
> > set up just about anywhere, cheaply. “There’s no need for chillers;
> > there’s
> > no need for raised floors,” he says. “You can put our servers in a
> > barn
> > that’s 110 degrees.”
> >
> > An oil-cooled motherboard. Photo: Intel
> >
> > Does that oil hurt the hardware in any way? After running the servers for
> > a
> > year in its New Mexico data center, Intel popped them open them and found
> > that the oil hadn’t harmed things at all. In fact, because oil-cooled
> > servers
> > are kept at a common temperature, it may turn out that they’re even more
> > reliable than their air-cooled counterpart, Patterson says. But that’s
> > an
> > area for future research.
> >
> > There is a downside, though. If you need to pop open an oil-cooled server
> > to
> > change a part, it can get a little messy. One of the Intel techs working
> > on
> > the tests in the company’s New Mexico data center brought in a change of
> > clothes each day, just in case he needed to pull the plug, drain the oil,
> > and
> > tinker with one of the systems.
> >
> > Green Revolution recommends an oil change every decade.
> >
> > Still, the CarnotJets are so power-efficient, that Patterson thinks that
> > the
> > data-center set will eventually want to try them out. “If and when
> > server
> > manufacturers get around to doing this, then I think the adoption could be
> > pretty reasonable,” he says.
> >
> > In addition to removing fans and sealing up hard drives — or switching
> > the
> > servers to solid state drives, which have no moving parts — server
> > makers
> > also need to remove the conductive grease between the server’s processor
> > and
> > its heat sink, because it can leach out into the mineral oil, Intel says.
> >
> > According to Green Revolution Cooling, at least one server company is
> > getting
> > ready to ship this type of oil-bath-ready servers: SuperMicro. David Banys
> > says that SuperMicro should be announcing its servers any day now.
> > SuperMicro
> > couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
> >
> > Watch the CarnotJet in action here:


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