Even though my first personal computer using liquid cooling from German Innovatek some 12 years ago, this ultra-efficient cooling concept encountered troubled times while breaking into the overly conservative market.

Good example of just how inefficient the industry is the supercomputer i.e. HPC arena. If you ever visited a supercomputer center, you?ll see that for example, high-end IBM Watson or Deep Blue are using liquid or even phase change cooling systems. However, the moment you come down to the dominating world of x86 servers, we see that 99.9% of all servers are air cooled. Read: not efficient.

Thus, unless you ?pull a Google? and turn a former mill into a liquid cooled supercomputer center using sea water, you?re bound to spend a boatload of money on inefficient air conditioning. It is obvious that the industry has a problem and perhaps for the first time now, we are seeing what change in system design you can achieve if you deploy liquid cooling inside your server. During the GPU Technology Conference, Penguin Computing launched its new Relion 2808GT; ultra-dense GPU server capable of supporting no less than eight Tesla K40 boards – thanks to liquid cooling.

Cooling Xeons, Tesla GPUs... CoolIT Rack DCLC shows promise.

Cooling Xeons, Tesla GPUs… CoolIT Rack DCLC shows promise.

In a 2U form factor, Penguin?s Relion 2808GT managed to combine two liquid cooled Xeon E5 series processors with eight liquid cooled Tesla K40 boards for a grand total of 120 processors (23,040 CUDA cores) and 96GB of ultra-fast GDDR5 memory. Performance wise, we?re talking about a single 2U box delivering no less than 34 TFLOPS of single-precision and over 11 TFLOPS of double-precision.

This is amount of compute power we are used seeing in a 4U box, which means liquid cooling from CoolIT Systems enabled Penguin to double the compute power while reducing the total cost of operation. The company claims that the Rack DCLC can address 86% of total server heat and reduce the facility air cooling requirement to 14%.
Given that the cost of building a datacenter is mostly in air conditioning (quite often, a two year bill for AC alone is higher than the cost of hardware), if you would design the building around the liquid cooled Relion 2808GT and its future iterations, you could reduce the cooling capacity to 30% of original specification and still have twice as much cooling capacity than with conventional air cooled servers. Penguin Computing claims they deliver 24% OPEX savings per year.

While Penguin is not the only player in this arena, we view this product to have a better chance of mainstream acceptance than esoteric concepts we?ve encountered, such as submerging the racks in mineral oil.