Liquid Cooling Makes a Splash in Enterprise Data Centers

August 12, 2019

Direct liquid cooling is now gaining momentum in mainstream data centers — for many good reasons.

As servers get faster, they generate more heat, and that increases the need for innovative approaches to cooling that go beyond the limitations of conventional air-cooled approaches. One of these innovative approaches that is gaining a lot of traction is direct liquid cooling.

Direct liquid cooling, or DLC, transfers heat away from processors and other heat-generating system components via contact with a liquid-cooled heat sink rather than using just air in the heat-exchange process. In one approach to DLC, used by the company CoolIT, a metal plate, or a cold plate, functions as a heat sink. This plate is placed in direct contact with the processor casing surface. Liquid flows through sealed micro-channels in the plate to capture heat from the processor, and then flows on to a heat exchanger, which dissipates the heat. The cooled liquid coming out of the heat exchanger travels back through the system, and the cycle repeats itself.

While it has been around for decades for various use cases — including supercomputing systems and desktop systems with accelerators — direct liquid cooling is gaining traction in enterprise data centers and service provider environments. The title of a paper by 451 Research pretty much says it all: “The Tide is Turning Toward Liquid Cooling in Datacenters.”[1]

Market research validates this view of the growing momentum for liquid cooling. A report by the research firm Global Market Insights projects that the data center liquid cooling market will jump to $2.5 billion by 2025, up from $750 million in 2018.[2]

A thirst for throughput

So why is direct liquid cooling gaining traction? One reason is an unquenchable thirst for higher throughput for artificial intelligence and high performance computing. To meet to this demand, new generations of technology bring faster Intel® processors and more dense racks, and that equates to more heat with the need for more efficient approaches to cooling.

Over the years, as Moore’s Law played out and the capacity and performance of processors grew, system builders continued to keep things cool with air-based approaches. But now we have reached the point where processor capacities and wattages are starting to bump up against the limits of conventional approaches to cooling. The more we push for higher performance in systems, the more wattage we require in processors, and that equates to more heat. Liquid cooling is one of the ways to deal with that heat in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Let’s talk watts. Air cooling has worked for systems with CPUs that top out around 150 watts, which is what we have had for the past decade or so. But today, we are seeing more systems with CPUs that run at 200W and above and accelerators that run at 300W, with plans for even higher-wattage processors. These higher-wattage processors will be increasingly important for many computationally intensive artificial intelligence workloads that use hardware accelerators, including machine learning, deep learning and applications like high-frequency training and fraud detection.

Collectively, these trends are causing people to take a closer look at liquid cooling, which is a more efficient way to cool processors. It’s also a more efficient way to cool high-density storage and systems deployed at the network edge, according to 451 Research.

“DLC will largely take off because the existing tech­nology — air cooling — will hit its limitations and inflict pain on major buyers of infrastructure in the form of lost performance or higher costs (or both),” the firm says in its report on the tide turning to DLC. What’s more, the data centers that we build today will likely still be in service in the late 2020s and early 2030s, so they have to be built with future cooling needs in mind. “It is for these reasons that 451 Research views DLC as a must-have in the datacenter operator’s toolset if it wants to keep pace with infrastructure requirements.”1

Liquid cooling in a new supercomputer

Among the organizations that have opted for liquid cooling is the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), with new supercomputer Frontera. The primary system, supplied by Dell EMC, will have more than 8,000 dual-socket Intel® Xeon® nodes with 205W processors. Frontera will also include a small accelerated subsystem, to support molecular dynamics and machine learning applications.[3]

Frontera, which debuted at No. 5 on the latest TOP500 list,[4] leverages DLC-cooled Dell EMC PowerEdge C6420 servers and Dell EMC Isilon unstructured data storage in combination with 2nd-generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable Platinum processors, Intel® Optane™ DC Persistent Memory and a high-performance Mellanox HDR 200Gb/s InfiniBand interconnect.

For the system’s 448,448 cores, the racks leverage DLC technology from CoolIT, a Dell EMC partner. CoolIT’s Direct Contact Liquid Cooling technology uses the exceptional thermal conductivity of liquid to provide dense, concentrated cooling to targeted surface areas. The technology uses warm or room-temperature water to cool CPUs, eliminating the need for chilled water and reducing the cost of cooling by as much as 56 percent over traditional cooling methods.[5]

Dell EMC now offers DCLC technology from CoolIT in the PowerEdge C6420 server, a density-optimized workhorse for artificial intelligence and high performance computing workloads. Liquid cooling allows the server to support higher wattage processors for increased performance and energy efficiency.

Key takeaways

Direct liquid cooling is coming to a data center near you as one of the keys to enabling the use of higher-wattage processors and more powerful computing systems.  As 451 Research notes, “DLC is quickly becoming a relevant consideration for enterprises and service providers, moving beyond the classic supercomputing use case.”1

To learn more

For a closer look at liquid cooling in HPC servers, see the Dell EMC-CoolIT solution brief and watch the Dell EMC video featuring CoolIT Systems CEO/CTO Geoff Lyon.


[1] 451 Research, “The Tide is Turning Toward Liquid Cooling in Datacenters,” July 2018.

[2] Global Market Insights, Inc., “Data Center Liquid Cooling Market worth over $2.5bn by 2025,” February 04, 2019.

[3] HPCwire, “TACC’s ‘Frontera’ Supercomputer Expands Horizon for Extreme-Scale Science,” August 29, 2018.

[4] TOP500, “Frontera – Dell C6420, Xeon Platinum 8280 28C 2.7GHz, Mellanox InfiniBand HDR,” June 2019.

[5] Dell EMC solutions brief, “Improve Power Efficiency with Dell EMC PowerEdge and CoolIT Systems Rack DCLC,” 2017.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

NASA Uses Supercomputing to Measure Carbon in the World’s Trees

October 22, 2020

Trees constitute one of the world’s most important carbon sinks, pulling enormous amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing the carbon in their trunks and the surrounding soil. Measuring this carbon sto Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia Dominates (Again) Latest MLPerf Inference Results

October 22, 2020

The two-year-old AI benchmarking group MLPerf.org released its second set of inferencing results yesterday and again, as in the most recent MLPerf training results (July 2020), it was almost entirely The Nvidia Show, a p Read more…

By John Russell

With Optane Gaining, Intel Exits NAND Flash

October 21, 2020

In a sign that its 3D XPoint memory technology is gaining traction, Intel Corp. is departing the NAND flash memory and storage market with the sale of its manufacturing base in China to SK Hynix of South Korea. The $9 Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE, AMD and EuroHPC Partner for Pre-Exascale LUMI Supercomputer

October 21, 2020

Not even a week after Nvidia announced that it would be providing hardware for the first four of the eight planned EuroHPC systems, HPE and AMD are announcing another major EuroHPC design win. Finnish supercomputing cent Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPE to Build Australia’s Most Powerful Supercomputer for Pawsey

October 20, 2020

The Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth, Western Australia, has had a busy year. Pawsey typically spends much of its time looking to the stars, working with a variety of observatories and astronomers – but when COVID Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

AWS Solution Channel

Live Webinar: AWS & Intel Research Webinar Series – Fast scaling research workloads on the cloud

Date: 27 Oct – 5 Nov

Join us for the AWS and Intel Research Webinar series.

You will learn how we help researchers process complex workloads, quickly analyze massive data pipelines, store petabytes of data, and advance research using transformative technologies. Read more…

Intel® HPC + AI Pavilion

Berlin Institute of Health: Putting HPC to Work for the World

Researchers from the Center for Digital Health at the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) are using science to understand the pathophysiology of COVID-19, which can help to inform the development of targeted treatments. Read more…

DDN-Tintri Showcases Technology Integration with Two New Products

October 20, 2020

DDN, a long-time leader in HPC storage, announced two new products today and provided more detail around its strategy for integrating DDN HPC technologies with the enterprise strengths of its recent acquisitions, notably Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Dominates (Again) Latest MLPerf Inference Results

October 22, 2020

The two-year-old AI benchmarking group MLPerf.org released its second set of inferencing results yesterday and again, as in the most recent MLPerf training resu Read more…

By John Russell

HPE, AMD and EuroHPC Partner for Pre-Exascale LUMI Supercomputer

October 21, 2020

Not even a week after Nvidia announced that it would be providing hardware for the first four of the eight planned EuroHPC systems, HPE and AMD are announcing a Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPE to Build Australia’s Most Powerful Supercomputer for Pawsey

October 20, 2020

The Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth, Western Australia, has had a busy year. Pawsey typically spends much of its time looking to the stars, working with a Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DDN-Tintri Showcases Technology Integration with Two New Products

October 20, 2020

DDN, a long-time leader in HPC storage, announced two new products today and provided more detail around its strategy for integrating DDN HPC technologies with Read more…

By John Russell

Is the Nvidia A100 GPU Performance Worth a Hardware Upgrade?

October 16, 2020

Over the last decade, accelerators have seen an increasing rate of adoption in high-performance computing (HPC) platforms, and in the June 2020 Top500 list, eig Read more…

By Hartwig Anzt, Ahmad Abdelfattah and Jack Dongarra

Nvidia and EuroHPC Team for Four Supercomputers, Including Massive ‘Leonardo’ System

October 15, 2020

The EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (JU) serves as Europe’s concerted supercomputing play, currently comprising 32 member states and billions of euros in funding. I Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

ROI: Is HPC Worth It? What Can We Actually Measure?

October 15, 2020

HPC enables innovation and discovery. We all seem to agree on that. Is there a good way to quantify how much that’s worth? Thanks to a sponsored white pape Read more…

By Addison Snell, Intersect360 Research

Preparing for Exascale Science on Day 1

October 14, 2020

Science simulation, visualization, data, and learning applications will greatly benefit from the massive computational resources available with future exascal Read more…

By Linda Barney

Supercomputer-Powered Research Uncovers Signs of ‘Bradykinin Storm’ That May Explain COVID-19 Symptoms

July 28, 2020

Doctors and medical researchers have struggled to pinpoint – let alone explain – the deluge of symptoms induced by COVID-19 infections in patients, and what Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia Said to Be Close on Arm Deal

August 3, 2020

GPU leader Nvidia Corp. is in talks to buy U.K. chip designer Arm from parent company Softbank, according to several reports over the weekend. If consummated Read more…

By George Leopold

Intel’s 7nm Slip Raises Questions About Ponte Vecchio GPU, Aurora Supercomputer

July 30, 2020

During its second-quarter earnings call, Intel announced a one-year delay of its 7nm process technology, which it says it will create an approximate six-month shift for its CPU product timing relative to prior expectations. The primary issue is a defect mode in the 7nm process that resulted in yield degradation... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Hires Longtime Intel Exec Bill Magro to Lead HPC Strategy

September 18, 2020

In a sign of the times, another prominent HPCer has made a move to a hyperscaler. Longtime Intel executive Bill Magro joined Google as chief technologist for hi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Keeps Cray Brand Promise, Reveals HPE Cray Supercomputing Line

August 4, 2020

The HPC community, ever-affectionate toward Cray and its eponymous founder, can breathe a (virtual) sigh of relief. The Cray brand will live on, encompassing th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

Aurora’s Troubles Move Frontier into Pole Exascale Position

October 1, 2020

Intel’s 7nm node delay has raised questions about the status of the Aurora supercomputer that was scheduled to be stood up at Argonne National Laboratory next year. Aurora was in the running to be the United States’ first exascale supercomputer although it was on a contemporaneous timeline with... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

European Commission Declares €8 Billion Investment in Supercomputing

September 18, 2020

Just under two years ago, the European Commission formalized the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (JU): a concerted HPC effort (comprising 32 participating states at c Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Is the Nvidia A100 GPU Performance Worth a Hardware Upgrade?

October 16, 2020

Over the last decade, accelerators have seen an increasing rate of adoption in high-performance computing (HPC) platforms, and in the June 2020 Top500 list, eig Read more…

By Hartwig Anzt, Ahmad Abdelfattah and Jack Dongarra

Nvidia and EuroHPC Team for Four Supercomputers, Including Massive ‘Leonardo’ System

October 15, 2020

The EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (JU) serves as Europe’s concerted supercomputing play, currently comprising 32 member states and billions of euros in funding. I Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Google Cloud Debuts 16-GPU Ampere A100 Instances

July 7, 2020

On the heels of the Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU launch in May, Google Cloud is announcing alpha availability of the A100 “Accelerator Optimized” VM A2 instance family on Google Compute Engine. The instances are powered by the HGX A100 16-GPU platform, which combines two HGX A100 8-GPU baseboards using... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Microsoft Azure Adds A100 GPU Instances for ‘Supercomputer-Class AI’ in the Cloud

August 19, 2020

Microsoft Azure continues to infuse its cloud platform with HPC- and AI-directed technologies. Today the cloud services purveyor announced a new virtual machine Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Powers Fugaku’s Storage, Scores IO500 Win

August 28, 2020

In June, RIKEN shook the supercomputing world with its Arm-based, Fujitsu-built juggernaut: Fugaku. The system, which weighs in at 415.5 Linpack petaflops, topp Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DOD Orders Two AI-Focused Supercomputers from Liqid

August 24, 2020

The U.S. Department of Defense is making a big investment in data analytics and AI computing with the procurement of two HPC systems that will provide the High Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Oracle Cloud Deepens HPC Embrace with Launch of A100 Instances, Plans for Arm, More 

September 22, 2020

Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) continued its steady ramp-up of HPC capabilities today with a flurry of announcements. Topping the list is general availabilit Read more…

By John Russell

Joliot-Curie Supercomputer Used to Build First Full, High-Fidelity Aircraft Engine Simulation

July 14, 2020

When industrial designers plan the design of a new element of a vehicle’s propulsion or exterior, they typically use fluid dynamics to optimize airflow and in Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This