Data centers of the future — Cool new technology promises to enable energy efficiency

You don’t have to be an expert in semiconductors to understand the relationship between processing power and heat. Anyone who uses a laptop computer knows that today’s CPUs generate enough heat that you can literally feel it on your lap.

Nanometer-scale semiconductor fabrication capabilities have allowed chipmakers to pack more transistors into increasingly smaller silicon real estate. As a result, the heat generated by microprocessors, and other semiconductors in general, has risen dramatically, whether in a laptop or in the world’s most powerful supercomputers.

And when thousands and thousands of CPUs are packed into high performance computing clusters, keeping the systems cool can be costly not only in terms of electricity, but also in terms of data center space.


The costs of keeping cool

As the size and number of enterprise computing environments grow to keep pace with the incredible explosion of data traffic, cooling has become a more pressing concern. Data centers consume a phenomenal amount of energy to power the world’s computing and communications equipment — as much as 3 percent of all global electricity produced.

As a result of more people and devices becoming connected, data centers increasingly need to deliver more performance and storage while reducing energy consumption.
Rising above air

Air cooling is the predominant method for cooling server racks and compute clusters. Cooling the components this way — including the air handling equipment that moves air around the data center, and the fans that draw cooled air through the servers — consumes a considerable amount of power. This conventional method of cooling is a leading cause of inefficiency.

Intel, SGI and 3M have joined forces to explore innovative ways to cool data centers and positively impact the environment. As part of the collaboration, the three companies have developed a proof-of-concept to demonstrate an advanced liquid cooling technology.


Pushing the leading edge

SGI has been at the forefront of innovation in cooling technologies for high performance computing since its inception more than 30 years ago. SGI continues its commitment to innovation with SGI ICE™ X, which combines cutting-edge power with a revolutionary on-socket liquid cooling approach called a “cold sink.”

Together SGI, 3M and Intel have proven that mainstream supercomputing clusters will work properly in an immersion cooled environment that has the potential to decrease power usage for cooling by more than 90 percent compared to traditional air cooling methods using a conventional water/air cooled commercial hardware platform.

This technological proof of concept may enable data centers to gain greater computing power in less space — and solve the paradox of more performance with more efficiency on an increasingly larger scale.