The Real ROI of Immersion Cooling

The case for immersion cooling grows as rack densities increase rapidly stressing traditional cooling infrastructure

Historically, the only use cases for immersion cooling involved high-performance supercomputers belonging to data processing giants or large institutional laboratories.

Today, however, mainstream adoption is ramping up, making it’s way to next-generation enterprise data centers interested in utilizing the industry-leading technology. As a result of this increased adoption trend, the Global Data Center Liquid Cooling Market is anticipating a massive season of growth and is expected to reach almost $4.55 billion by 2023, per a recent HTF Market Report.

As data center facilities manage larger server loads, rack densities increase rapidly, causing servers to reach their heat rejection thresholds. As a result, conventional air-cooling configurations simply can no longer keep up. Per theLawrence Berkeley National Lab, data center facilities worldwide are set to use almost 75 billion kWh by 2020, causing the global market energy consumption to increase by almost 4%. This massive growth in energy consumption underscores the need for more efficient cooling strategies. Of these, immersion cooling is leading the way.

Traditionally, air-cooled methods require raised floor systems that allow for cold air to be pumped to servers via computer room air conditioners (CRAC). This traditional method proves to be inefficient when cooling increased compute loads and higher watts per square foot. The majority of legacy and enterprise data centers today utilize air-cooled systems. Although, some companies like Volkswagen and Microsoft are ahead of the curve incorporating green standards to by using only renewable power or modifications to take advantage of cooling efficiencies such as free air cooling.

One item that remains clear is that as servers demand more power and generate more heat, liquid cooling is emerging as the leader in more efficient cooling practices. Increasingly, the deployment of immersion cooling is what separates the data center technology leaders from the rest of the pack.

It’s easy to talk about how innovative liquid cooling is. But at the end of the day, how much value does it actually add to your data center operations? Below, we’ve highlighted some of the top benefits of immersion cooling.

  1. Silent Operations - Whether it’s single or two-phase immersion cooling, liquid cooling keeps your hardware submerged in a dielectric fluid of some type. With air-based cooling, servers require fans and HVAC systems to be running non-stop throughout the day. As a result, some large server rooms with high-density racks experience a noise level reaching almost 80db. Not only is it unbearably loud; these fans can account for roughly 25-30% in additional power required to keep compute equipment on-line. When your hardware remains submerged in a liquid-based system, fans are eliminated, further driving your PUE lower.

  2. Reduced PUE - Power usage effectiveness (PUE) is the ratio of a data center’s total facility energy to its total IT equipment (ITE) energy. By definition, the most energy-efficient data center would have a PUE of 1.0.  But, as we all know, this is nearly unattainable due to the PUE loss that occurs in power transformation and mechanical cooling load.  

    Legacy or underside air-cooled techniques can struggle to maintain a satisfactory PUE number, operating in the 1.8 to 2.4 range. Modern, purpose-built data centers have achieved significant PUE reductions using air-cooled chillers with closed-loop systems, often hitting a PUE of 1.3-1.5.

    With immersion cooling, PUE consistently stays under 1.3, drastically reducing a facility’s energy load. In doing so, immersion-cooled environments operate as some of the world’s greenest data centers.
  3. Cost Savings - When it comes to operational overhead, cooling accounts for a large portion of opex. A facility that houses thousands of servers is expected to run 24/7, 365 days a year; with traditional air-cooling, that facility is now also deploying a huge quantity of fans, HVAC and CRAC systems as well. When servers are submerged in thermally conductive cooling solutions, heat is transferred more efficiently, electricity usage is reduced by more than 95%, and power bills are drastically reduced.At Skybox, we’re strong advocates for immersion cooling. In fact, our Houston One facility houses one of the worlds largest supercomputers. ‘Bubba’, the powerful computing system from DownUnder GeoSolutions (DUG), includes over 40,000 servers cooled in more than 700 cooling tanks. While Bubba can deliver 250 petaflops, liquid cooling has cut the DUG system’s energy usage by 45 percent, bringing the PUE close-to-perfect at 1.05.

Our Skybox facilities are purpose-built to meet the needs of all our customers. For more information on what we have to offer, visit our website or give us a call today.