Liquid Cooling Coming to the Edge

Arthur Cole

The enterprise is poised to make a serious investment in edge-based processing and storage, the vast majority of it coming in the form of single- or maybe dual-rack “micro data centers.”

The need is clear. The Internet of Things (IoT) all but demands that data be kept close to users, both to reduce latency and to prevent centralized facilities from becoming overwhelmed by zettabytes of sensor-driven traffic.

But there’s a problem. Many of these centers will be located outdoors in hot climates, which means cooling costs using conventional air-handling systems will be high. So it should come as no surprise that many of the emerging micro-center formats are turning to immersive liquid solutions that provide dramatically higher performance using a fraction of the energy.

One of the newest systems is the Stulz Micro DC, which was recently upgraded with the Direct Contact LC solution (Rack DCLC) from CoolIT. The system is the product of the companies’ Chip-to-Atmosphere partnership, providing both air- and liquid-cooled systems working in tandem to accommodate fluctuating workloads and provide redundant cooling capabilities. The CoolIT system can handle 60 percent to 80 percent of the heat load, while Stulz’ precision cooling system takes on the remaining 20 percent to 40 percent. Systems can also be configured around customized options for heat rejection and reuse.


This came on the heels of another liquid-cooled solution from the UK’s Iceotope. The EdgeStation is a portable edge server that features a fully sealed liquid immersion system based on a specially engineered dielectric. The system has been hardened against harsh environments and features plug-and-play configuration and, being a liquid solution, fan-free operation for quiet performance and low downtime. The enclosure itself holds up to two CPU and two expandable PCIe devices in a tower-style form factor.

Meanwhile, New Mexico’s Aquila and TAS Energy Systems of Houston have devised a modular edge solution called Herma that is built around Aquila’s Aquarius LC system. The 8’x8’ device packs 1,584 E5 compute cores and 6.4 PB of storage, although additional systems of various sizes and densities are planned as well. The Aquarius system is said to reduce energy consumption by some 250,000 kWh/year, reducing the device’s heat profile by as much as 30 percent.

And Dutch start-up Asperitas is out with the AIC24 system that uses a natural convection setup in its water-cooled, oil-immersion approach to reduce system complexity and cut down on infrastructure. The company has devised a unique convection drive that uses natural flow patterns to transfer up to 24 kW away from electrical components, which can number up to 48 servers and two switches in any given module. The device is rated for annual average temperatures of 15 degrees C and higher and provides full plug-and-play provisioning for rapid deployment in rugged environments.

A single edge device does not even come close to the energy draw of a central data facility, but the sheer number of edge points makes it imperative that operating costs be cut to the bone in order to produce an economically viable distributed data environment. At the same time, the edge must be relatively trouble-free and capable of high performance to handle an increasingly demanding service portfolio.

Liquid cooling is not the only technology that will bring this about, but it makes it far easier to support the increasingly powerful data systems that will do much of the heavy lifting as IoT and other workloads increase in scale.

Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.


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