IBM Cools Data Centres With Unchilled Tapwater


IBM researchers cut the cost of water cooling for data centres, by allowing sites to use unchilled tapwater

IBM has predicted that all data centres will use water cooling to keep energy costs down and reduce their carbon footprint. Its latest advance towards that goal is to allow the use of unchilled tap water.

Keeping computing systems and data centres cool—in a cost-effective and energy-efficient manner—has been a constant challenge. Old-style data centres may spend as much energy cooling their servers down as running the IT kit. Reducing this energy waste has been a major focus of the IT industry, but typical air-cooled server rooms use a lot of energy.  Regardless of whether it is the middle of summer or the first day of winter, many businesses must turn on air-conditioning systems in their server rooms or data centres to keep their computers functioning properly, and the cost of air conditioning is a significant portion of an IT department’s energy bill.

IBM water cooling Aquasar  hot water cooled supercomputerWater cooling the IBM way

In an average data centre, as much as 25 percent of the energy consumption and carbon footprint is not caused by computing but by powering the necessary cooling systems to keep the processors from overheating – this works out at a PUE of 1.5, and is an untenable situation when looking at energy efficiency from a holistic perspective.

IBM has predicted that all servers will be water cooled within the next seven years. Water has conductivity properties up to 4,000 times better than air, and removes heat in a form where it can be easily re-used to heat home and office space.

IBM has pioneered the use of hot water to cool the Aquasar supercomputer in Zurich, Switzerland, and put the same technology into the commercial SuperMUC supercomputer launched this year. In earlier generations of servers and systems it has often used water, for instance i the patented Rear Door Heat Exchanger available on server rack doors for IBM Power systems and System x servers, which can reduce air-conditioning requirements by more than 55 percent.

Most systems use chilled water however, and IBM researchers in the company’s Poughkeepsie, New York, lab have just developed a new technique that allows for the use of unchilled tap water. Our Gallery looks at the history of water cooling at IBM.

IBM Water Cooling Gallery

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IBM water cooling unchilled tapwater
Today: Using Unchilled Tap Water - Milnes David, an engineer in IBM's Energy Efficiency Lab in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., inspects the chilled innards of a specially cooled computer the company developed for the U.S. Department of Energy as part of a two-year research project, which is drawing to a close. The project sought to increase the efficiency of the world's 33 million computer servers and resulted in 21 IBM patents for technology known as heat-exchangers, which can cool computer servers using unchilled tap water, an innovation that can slash in half the amount of energy used in data centers.

Daryl Taft of compiled this gallery and wrote the original story.

So how much do you know about IBM’s history? Take our quiz!

Originally published on eWeek.

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