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

Douglas Eadline deadline at eadline.org
Mon Sep 3 06:15:28 PDT 2012

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://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:
> Top photo and video: Green Revolution Cooling
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