Getting Started with Data Center Liquid Cooling Systems

Mike Allen
July 12, 2018

Getting Started with Data Center Liquid Cooling Systems

Liquid cooling has been used for high-performance computers in the past. However, modern applications of liquid cooling are quite different from what they were in the past.

History of Data Center Cooling

The data center industry stopped using liquid cooling and began an era of clustered computing. This era was characterized by very little specialization between server manufacturers, hence very little differentiation. 

Now, however, data centers are looking for ways to differentiate their products based on performance.

Image of a server rackImage of the Server Rack  


For example, companies like CoolIT, Asetek and Green Revolution Cooling are independently trying to revolutionize the design of liquid cooling systems for data center racks and high-end servers. 

Big brand server manufacturers like Lenovo also design liquid cooled server systems.

IT Workers’ Understanding of Liquid Cooling

Thanks to the switch from liquid cooling to air cooling and back to air cooling, corporate IT workers can be divided into three groups based on how they understand data center cooling methods. 

The first group consists of IT workers who recall liquid cooling on big iron. 

The second group consists of IT workers who only have experience with air-cooled commodity servers. 

Data center IT worker Data center IT worker  


The final group consists of IT workers who are too young to know big iron, but may know about liquid cooling from today’s gaming PCs.

So Why has Liquid Cooling made a comeback?

Today’s processors generate more heat than previous server generations, and air cooled systems aren’t adequate enough. The need for stronger fans to improve the cooling increases electrical costs.

10 Pieces of Advice for those Intending to Implement Liquid-Cooled Systems

Now that we know that liquid-cooling will soon become the standard in data centers, there are a number of things IT workers should take into consideration when thinking of data center cooling solutions

These pieces of advice are from Addison Snell, CEO of market research company Intersect360 and Scott Tease, executive director of high-performance computing and artificial intelligence, in the Lenovo data center group. Please take them seriously.

1) There needs to be good communication between people who operate data centers and those who work in it. Without good communication, it will be difficult to know whether or not liquid cooling is ideal for the data center.

2) It is important to ensure safety of the liquid-cooled system by adding a cleaning additive every few months to minimize damage in case of a leak or flood.

3) The additional hardware required to cool servers takes up space. As such, additional servers may be needed to compensate cooling apparatus that replace server memory chips. 

4) Installing liquid-cooled systems may be ideal for transactional servers and math-intensive applications become hot fast because of constant activity. However, liquid-cooled systems may not be ideal for storage.

5) Some servers may not support liquid cooling. For instance, if the server’s RAM chips are very close to one another, there may not be space left for cooling pipes.

6) In case the data center is located in an area with low-cost power, installing liquid cooling systems may be ineffective. The location of the facility determines the data center cooling system design.

7) Before implementing liquid cooling, you should clearly understand your goals. Do you want to save money, improve cooling efficiency, or both? Do you have some other goals?

8) You may find yourself in need of water chilling units. For example, some of Lenovo’s products work on unchilled water.

9) Consider liquid cooling as a step forward rather than a step backward. It is the future of data center cooling technology.

10) Liquid cooling is associated with custom architectures that only run one or two applications. The important thing to remember is that these systems are made using industry-standard components.

Mike Allen

Mike Allen serves as VP of Solutions & Engineering and engages with clients directly to determine the best course of action for their IT infrastructure based on current and future requirements. Mike has an extensive technical background having worked for some of the largest carriers both domestically and Internationally. He specializes in data center, network, cloud and communications. He holds several certifications including CCNA and SSCA.