Global Sources
EE Times-Asia
Stay in touch with EE Times Asia
EE Times-Asia > Memory/Storage

Server cooling method attracts U.S. gov't interest

Posted: 26 Dec 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Server cooling method? supercomputer? mesh networking? R134a?

Phil Hughes, owner of start-up Clustered Systems Co., has claimed that he can pack 200 KW of electronics into a single server rack. Meanwhile, a top tier OEM and a government lab are considering his company's cooling technology.

Originally, Hughes planned to build a supercomputer around a new mesh networking technology he helped develop. However, he and his investors discovered their approach to cooling the system was even more valuable than the supercomputer design itself.

Clustered Systems uses sealed cold plates filed with R134a, the same stuff used in car air conditioning systems. The cold plates sit next to heat risers, blocks of aluminium that channel heat from the electronics.

The heat boils the refrigerant sending gas and a little remaining liquid off to an external heat exchanger. Outside the server box, cold water or ambient cool air makes the refrigerant condense back to a liquid that cycles back to the server plate.

Figure 1: Hughes has developed two versions of the plate. One lies horizontally on top of a rack-mounted server (above), the other stands vertically between server blades.

Cooling options
Liebert already sells a version of the former product under the brand name XDS. In addition, one server maker is testing an evaluation system, and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center ('re'?) will commission another system early next year. (see more of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Centre at this link.

The approach let's data centres keep systems in shipping containers, eliminating the need to build the air-cooled facilities widely use today. Hughes estimates that could save as much as $600 per server. However, data centre managers will have to pay as much as $1,000 per server to install the Clustered Systems technology.

Hughes' approach is one of a handful of liquid cooling options now circulating in the high-end server market. Others used by the likes of Asetek, Coolit, Eurotech and IBM employ a variety of waters, oils or other ingredients sent to the rack or the server.

Hughes got his start helping to develop the QuickRing technology at Apple, then trying to create a video server based on itbut the key chip behind it failed. The project morphed into the idea of a mesh for a big telco switch that reaped $110 million in VC funding, but went belly up in the dot-com crash.

Along the way, "I got addicted to start-ups," said Hughes.

Clustered snagged $3 million in finding from President Obama's economic stimulus. It has financial runway for another year or so before it needs to see commercial sales of its technology to stay afloat.

Meanwhile the entrepreneur is pondering his road map. "I've concluded the technology is capable of supporting a petaflop in a rack with today's productI think that the message is that cooling is removed as a barrier to exaflop computing," he said.

- Rick Merritt
??EE Times

Article Comments - Server cooling method attracts U.S. ...
*? You can enter [0] more charecters.
*Verify code:


Visit Asia Webinars to learn about the latest in technology and get practical design tips.

Back to Top