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Intel completes year-long oil-cooling test on servers

updated 03:43 pm EDT, Wed September 5, 2012

Findings suggest oil could lower data center operating costs

Oil-cooled servers could possibly be used by companies to lower their data center costs. A year-long test by Intel and Green Revolution Cooling saw that by submerging a rack of servers into a non-conducting mineral oil, it had the best Power Usage Effectiveness that Intel had ever seen using that metric, although it could still be improved.

The test saw two identical racks of server, one using standard data center cooling techniques, the other placed into a tack filled with 250 gallons of dielectric fluid. The oil temperature is kept low through the use of a pump with a heat exchanger. Although the findings were seen to be in favor of oil cooling over air, a thermal architect at Intel believes that by optimizing the server's heatsinks, temperature transfers could be improved and allow the servers to push for a higher clock speed.

As current data center design requires servers to have raised floors, air conditioning units, and other kinds of building infrastructure, an oil-based version would require less of the construction, potentially saving companies on both start-up construction and ongoing power costs.

As for the future viability of the system, Intel published research in 2008, showing that it is possible for servers to perform well when using air from outside the center to cool everything down. This "free-air cooling" has since been taken onboard by data center operators, including Apple for their North Carolina build. [via Data Center Knowledge]

By Electronista Staff
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  1. cageordie

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 07-15-13

    I've liquid cooled things for my amusement, my current PC has a liquid cooled processor and others had chipset and graphics coolers too. So I am not against liquid cooling. But in this case you replace a few ounces of air with 750Kg of mineral oil. So OK, you save on a/c ducting... depending on where the oil dumps its heat, but the raised floor may also be carrying data and power cabling. You can't just go adding 3/4 of a tonne to each rack with your current building designs, unless you are in the basement. And what does this do to servicing? Do you just reach in and pull out an oily board? You can't have your racks standing up any more and that means they are going to take three times the floor space. Server farms are already tight on space. So, interesting, but I'm not going to be leading the charge on this one.

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