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

Ellis H. Wilson III ellis at cse.psu.edu
Tue Sep 4 11:54:46 PDT 2012

On 09/04/2012 12:54 PM, Lux, Jim (337C) wrote:
> Hydrogen is cheaper than He and works even better.  Just make sure you don't have any air leaks in (i.e. keep a bit of positive pressure).  For the "server farm in a container" model, this would work just fine.. leaks would just float up into the atmosphere.

This is one of those eyebrow-raising suggestions because it is so 
enticing and yet so much could go wrong.  I guess if you had your crates 
in places that didn't have earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, extreme 
winds, snow, freezing rain, recently fired computer programmers from 
Google/Facebook/Amazon/etc with access to high-powered rifles and 
armour-piercing bullets, a guaranteed surplus of hydrogen to continue 
positive pressure and you separated the containers pretty far apart, it 
/might/ be safe.  There are probably a dozen other ways things could go 
amiss with Hydrogen, but these are just the few ways I came up with off 
the top of my head and without a physical sciences background.

One big concern from my perspective is replacing equipment in these 
boxes.  Maybe the whole thing is just built, sealed for good, primed 
with hydrogen, started, allowed to slowly degrade over time and finally 
tossed when the still working equipment is sufficiently dated?  Not sure 
if the cost/benefit works out for this case.  Switches at least would 
definitely need to be outside the box.

I know we've been taking things to the uber-scale level with this 
conversation, but does anyone have suggestions for small (homebrew 
Beowulf) clusters?  I've considered oil before, but for all the 
capillary concerns voiced in this list have avoided it.  I would 
consider a reasonable gas (NOT hydrogen) if one could be suggested along 
with a feasible way to keep that gas in a small rack or similar 
structure, or an alternative to oil if a nicer one (albeit not as 
efficient) could similarly be suggested.  Perhaps air or piped 
water-cooling is indeed my best bet.



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