Writing credit: Collin Arocho, Technology Editor at Bits&Chips

Immersion cooling specialist Asperitas has achieved a market first – earning unanimous approval on the Open Compute Project’s AIC24 qualification for safety and quality. What did it take to gain this acceptance from OCP and what does this mean for the future of immersion cooling?

After years of extensive research and development and community building within the Open Compute Project (OCP), immersion cooling experts at Asperitas have just hit a major milestone. The Amsterdam-based scaleup has successfully received OCP’s AIC24 quality and safety qualification, with unanimous approval, and has taken the lead in becoming the first immersion-based technology to reach the achievement. This, however, is just the start of the company’s bigger vision, as the cleantech specialist looks to establish itself as a leader in the domain.

“Of course, we are thrilled to be the first immersion cooling vendor to gain approval for all three levels of requirements – standard, thermal optimization and safety,” says Andy Young CTO of Asperitas. “But this certainly isn’t a race. It’s a wonderful achievement, but the job simply isn’t done. As technology continues to advance, so too will OCP’s requirements, which means we have to keep on the accelerator and continue to innovate and help move the ecosystem forward. This continual advancement is very much the essence of OCP.”

In fact, two years after publishing its initial set of requirements, OCP is about to release the updated 2nd revision. The document works to spell out the basic minimum requirements that are needed to meet the safety, performance and sustainability demands of the domain’s marketplace. Simultaneously, group members are working with the accreditation company UL to establish its first official certification within the immersion cooling industry – all with the aim of keeping the community advancing.

“While there aren’t any major changes to the requirements coming in the 2nd revision, we are going into much more depth and detail, with a lot less ambiguity,” highlights Asperitas CEO Rolf Brink. “The biggest change is the number of authors, which has gone up from just a few to 12. But more interestingly, we’re now seeing a whole range of competitors, essentially all of the liquid providers like Shell and several IT OEMs taking an active role in authorship. This shows the growth and impact that the community approach is having.”

Confidentiality

Having so many authors, especially in such a public forum, is certainly not a given. As you might expect, the open nature of OCP can be a real challenge in today’s culture of NDAs, IP and market ambitions. Especially when the group consists of direct competitors, which can sometimes lead to tension. However, never being one to shy away from leadership, Asperitas’ Brink isn’t afraid to sound the bells of dissonance and shake things up as the co-lead of the immersion cooling subgroup.

“Sometimes, when we learn something, we trick ourselves into believing we’re the only ones. The truth is, if you look around, you’ll find that’s not the case. People are really smart and we, along with everyone else, are doing our research. So, pretending that somehow you know all the secrets, that’s not realistic,” suggests Brink. “That’s why we like to be the ones that break through on conversations, especially when it feels uncomfortable. The goal is to break down these walls of secrecy and get meaningful conversations started.”

Transparency, however, doesn’t simply end with establishing requirements and having conversations among collaborators. To achieve OCP’s AIC24 qualification and open the doors to the OCP Marketplace, applicants must also present their solutions in a public forum to a panel of experts, which includes competitors.

“Its public nature helps give exposure to this new technology, but also makes you open yourself up to questions to validate how well you’ve done your job. While that can be frightening for some, the process is designed to do a couple of things,” Young describes. “First, it puts you in a position where you’re not just verified by a select group of people in the panel but by a much broader audience. Second, it forces companies to share some of the ways they deal with common challenges, like thermal optimization, control issues, mitigation, containment procedures, etc. This is crucial in developing the industry further.”

Ecosystem

“Let’s be frank here, there’s not any individual cooling company that can single handedly implement a liquid cooling infrastructure across facilities. It’s just not doable. Instead of each of us doing our own thing and working to slaughter the competition, we need to develop that market and build and ecosystem,” explains Brink. “Our ambition is not to be the top and only provider in the world. Actually, what is needed is strong competition to help us develop this industry and to solve all these different problems because we’re never going to solve all the challenges just by ourselves. Nobody is.”

It’s precisely this ambition to develop the industry that drives Asperitas and other OCP members alike. Whether it’s being a mouthpiece on the need for sustainability in the domain, trumpeting the benefits of its, and others’, immersion-based cooling solutions, or ruffling a few feathers to move conversation and collaboration forward, the cleantech IT cooling expert is all-in on progressing and shaping the domain. The goal isn’t just to take the biggest chunk of the market, but rather taking an active role in leading the innovative thinking to make the industry eco-friendly and sustainable.

For community members like Shell, this is the draw toward collaboration in OCP. Punith Shivaprasad, Ph.D., Product Application Specialist, Shell immersion Cooling Fluids commented:

“At Shell we believe that industries in different sectors need to work together. Cross-industry collaboration is fundamental to helping society reach net-zero emissions and we are committed to playing our part. As a strategic partner, Asperitas not only provides immersion-cooling solutions, but also allows for the residual heat to be reused. Their holistic value proposition speaks to the needs of the datacentre industry and aligns with our ambition to provide a growing portfolio of innovative customer solutions.”

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