[Beowulf] Dunking for Density: New Projects Pursue 3M’s Take on Immersion Cooling

Lux, Jim (337C) james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Mon Nov 18 14:23:40 PST 2013

When I was working on some specialized test equipment on the island of Kauai, I asked why there was no air conditioning in the lab, just big vents and fans. The answer is that the temperature didn't vary all that much, never went above 30C, and never changed fast enough that condensation was an issue, especially if you were cooling heat generating equipment.

Checking online, I see that the average Max in Lihue (county seat of Kauai, on the shore.. we were up in the mountains) is 26-29C and the average Min is 18-23 C. The record high is 33C, record low is 8C.  (I'm sure the locals considered the latter as bitter cold).

One does not need a wide variety of types of clothing in Hawaii.
This lack of a need for heating and cooling in any practical sense is why people like to live in Hawaii.  It *is* quite humid, often, and it rains often (compared to Southern California, where I am.. not a lot compared to, say, Manila or Mumbai)  There are some freakishly wet places in Hawaii (Mt. Waialeale in Kauai with its hundreds of inches a year), but that's more of a microclimate thing with significant geographical effects.

So maybe the Maui Supercomputing Center is well situated?

Jim Lux

-----Original Message-----
From: beowulf-bounces at beowulf.org [mailto:beowulf-bounces at beowulf.org] On Behalf Of Ellis H. Wilson III
Sent: Friday, November 15, 2013 7:30 PM
To: beowulf at beowulf.org
Subject: Re: [Beowulf] Dunking for Density: New Projects Pursue 3M’s Take on Immersion Cooling

On 11/15/13 03:57, Eugen Leitl wrote:
> (go visit the site for pretty pikchers)
> http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2013/11/13/3m-immersion-co
> oling/

Cool stuff, as immersion cooling always is.  However, this got me thinking in the complete opposite direction...

Obviously there are cases where you need absurd density for latency critical applications or, I suppose, if the cost of the land in which you needed the computing to be local too was very costly.  Or, as they show, maybe you just want the efficiency of cooling to be near to perfect.

However, (here begins a very possibly insane set of ideas) what if instead of reaching for low density and really efficient cooling, you went the other way and spread things out and tried not to actively chill air at all?  Sure, your network latency will shoot up, but for many applications (data centers in particular) this may not matter at all. 
As a broken example, in the fall, my windows are open here in PA, I have no "chillers" in my house, and my server/desktop/microcluster runs just fine.  This is clearly a straw man example, as I have far too few machines for this to be reasonable.  But my core question here stands:

Are there places in the world so arid and stable in temperature that you could effectively run a data center or compute farm outside (or "almost
outside") and just let some big fans move the heat away from the cluster (maybe with just a pavilion-style roof on it)?  Maybe even someplace that has reasonably stable temperatures that you could just slightly condition the air for humidity before pushing it through?  I know condensation is a problem if you were someplace too cold or too humid, but I'm not sure what the relative sensitivity for that is. 

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