Ciara, CoolIT Plan Liquid-Cooled Servers as SC12 Begins

CoolIT Systems is working with Ciara Technologies to develop a liquid-cooled 1U chassis.

CoolIT Systems announced Nov. 8 that it was working with Ciara Technologies to develop a liquid-cooled 1U chassis that would normally require a 3U form factor with normal cooling. The two-thirds increase in per-rack compute density comes as both companies prepare to show off their wares at this week’s Supercomputer ‘12 show in Salt Lake City, where other improvements in data-center hardware will be announced.

CoolIT uses pumped cooling solutions, relying on a heat sink mounted on the processor that’s connected to a low-pressure loop filled with coolant. The coolant then dumps the heat into a liquid-to-liquid heat exchanger, which transfers it to the in-house water loop and then outside the facility. The coolant and water never mix. The cooling capabilities depend on the rate at which the coolant is moved across and through the heat sink, as well as its temperature.

The Ciara-CoolIT solution was a test server; CoolIT specializes on custom partnerships with hardware makers.  “We are overclocking our CPU’s in a 1u chassis allowing for densities never seen before,” Darcy Letemplier, vice president of engineering for Ciara Technologies, wrote in a statement. “Our customers are demanding unprecedented compute productivity.”

That’s on the heels of a number of other companies seeking alternatives to traditional cooling methods, from Intel’s partnership with Green Revolution Cooling that dunked servers in a non-conductive oil bath, to the air-cooled, modular data centers built by Microsoft, to Facebook’s use of Sweden’s cold ambient temperatures. (Meanwhile, organizations such as the Green Grid have argued that the need to actively cool the data center could be overrated, and that warmer inlet temperatures are nearly as effective in preventing hardware failures.

Power, however, wasn’t the motivating factor in the CoolIT-Ciara partnership—it was compute density. Ciara’s actual presence in the data center is somewhat minimal: the company manufactures two servers, the D2240 and the D3240, both of which use Intel’s E3-1200 series processors.

“We are amazed at the performance levels that Ciara has been able to achieve once the cooling limitations were removed,” Geoff Lyon, chief executive and chief technical officer for CoolIT Systems, wrote in a statement. “The Ciara engineering team has taken an innovative approach with their hardware decisions and by leveraging the liquid cooling advantage, they have created a unique offering for the High Performance Computing market.”

In addition to various papers and product announcements scheduled for SC12, the conference will feature the annual 47-hour Cluster Challenge, during which teams of students from around the world will compete to build and run a small supercomputer cluster of their own design. The competition will be in two tracks: the standard cluster challenge track and a new pilot ‘LittleFe’ track using a LittleFe computer platform.