September 18, 2023

Asperitas and Intel Collaborate for Immersion Cooling Solutions: Insights from DCD Panel

Writing credit: Emilia Coverdale, Marketing Project Manager at Asperitas

This year sees immersion cooling specialists, Asperitas working in combination with Intel to provide an integrated service offering to customers when using Intel products. A panel was put together recently for a special Datacenter Dynamics (DCD) broadcast alongside trusted partners at Shell and Boston Ltd to discuss how datacentres can implement immersion cooling systems in an intelligent and systematic manner. The panel showed that with appropriate education and training, as well as knowledge of not just the tank but the IT that it holds, immersion technology can streamline cooling deployments with minimal threats to current and future uptime.

Immersion cooling isn’t new, but as IT workloads continue to densify, the move towards more effective cooling techniques has become a necessity. Whilst the need for immersion is clear, the path to adoption is still a discovery for first time users. By leveraging immersion cooling technology, datacentres can reap the benefits of a scalable solution that is reliable, energy efficient and ideal for demanding workloads.Commenting on this user journey, Maikel Bouricius, CCO at Asperitas stated in the DCD Keeping IT Cool: Immersion Special panel that:

“Every user is usually a first-time user. That means that we are very much involved in getting them ready to adopt a technology like this and we work together with the partners that are here on the panel for that as well. But as you can imagine, early on we facilitate TCO calculations to make sure the business case makes sense.”

Intel has been no stranger to this narrative in recent times, clearly stating that “The Time Is Now” for immersion cooling at the OCP Global Summit in San Jose Last year. Intel has been supporting immersion cooling for over a decade, but the microprocessor specialist is now working closely with immersion tank vendors in order to help the customer juggle the need for High Performance Compute (HPC), energy efficiency and increasing demand.Intel previously collaborated with Asperitas and other trusted partners on the infrastructure upgrade for the Shell HPC cluster in a T-Systems managed Amsterdam datacentre. The semiconductor company is continuing to invest in technologies that benefit climate initiatives and is working with partners to develop and implement advanced immersion cooling techniques. During the DCD panel, Manfreid Chua, Director, Strategic Business Development – Sustainability at Intel said:

“Intel is absolutely focused on this whole insatiable appetite for compute. Being a supplier of that compute, we’re looking at providing that compute in the most environmentally responsible manner.”

Confident company = confident customers

With immersion cooling being a cross over solution between cooling and IT, there are different components to what makes an immersion cooling project successful. Operational readiness is something that starts with selecting the right solution, all the way down to the ideal situation: an optimized facility. The right immersion cooling solution is always a system where the cooling solution, the dielectric fluid and the compute hardware are integrated from a business, operational and technical perspective.So does Intel play an important role? And do they support the end-users? In short, yes. They recently developed a specification for immersion fluids and contributed this to OCP. They’re focusing on global deployments and PoCs to showcase the benefits of immersion to customers and they’re partnering closely with fluid and tank vendors to have solutions available to end customers globally. Furthermore, they announced their immersion warranty for Intel Xeon Scalable Processors at the OCP Global Summit, which was a first for any semiconductor company – a strong signal to the market that immersion cooling is an excellent choice. Basically, this is a technology they believe in, so the customer should too.

“We definitely want to push the benefits of immersion because we believe that it’s the right thing to do.” explained Chua. “When we take a look at new technologies – especially something like immersion cooling that has such an amazing impact on performance, density and sustainability – we want to make sure that we can accelerate the adoption.”

Ticking all the boxes in all fields

One of the main advantages of immersion cooling is that it can significantly reduce the energy consumption of the datacentre cooling system. Since the cooling medium is in direct contact with the IT equipment, the cooling system is more compact and energy efficient. These advantages, plus the huge potential for heat reuse, is fodder for companies to take serious note, and they can be seen jumping on board. Amos Ankrah, Solutions Specialist, Boston Ltd. explained that: “Some organisations are now developing systems which are built specifically for immersed cooling technology solutions. We will see more of that over time.”Immersion is a great way to optimise for both Greenfield and Brownfield when you’re trying to cut costs while checking those “yes” boxes on high performance, sustainability and density. In the past, there was a notion that immersion was pretty disruptive – big tanks with big fluids – there was a sense that one needed to go and re-architect the entire datacentre. Intel kept hearing it was just a Greenfield discussion. However, it's now clear that datacentres don’t require a complete retrofit. In fact, looking at it from a traditional air-cooling perspective, one can argue that it’s pretty complicated to go and raise a floor and do the air-ducting for a new section of a datacentre. There are requirements with cold aisles, hot aisles, chillers, not to mention the power needed to optimise around that.With immersion cooling, you’re not just getting the benefit of the power directly from the infrastructure of the immersion, but also at the datacentre level. The reality is that immersion cooling eliminates the need for fans, which can be noisy and can increase the risk of component failure due to dust and other contaminants. Servers can be packed more tightly together, which increases the density of the datacentre. More computing power can be packed into the same physical space. The fluid used in immersion cooling is less corrosive than air, reducing the need for regular cleaning. Heat sinks are cheaper. Adoption takes time as this is still a newer technology, but the benefits are clear. As Manfreid puts it,

“There’s very few times when groups can come together and check off the ‘yes’ box. I love win-win situations, and this is absolutely a win-win situation.”

High reliability with low downtime

It’s important to remember that as a technology concept, immersion cooling is not new. Asperitas, alongside their trusted partners, has a track record of testing, validating, fine tuning and optimising at each stage of the customer lifecycle, proving its reliability for many different types of users. Shell's journey into immersion cooling began with the Asperitas partnership, and they also remain focused on the customer journey.  So when it comes to testing, Shell is playing their part too, taking the time to understand the IT components and test their compatibility with the SX5 fluid they’ve developed for immersion. Punith Shivaprasad, Product Application Specialist at Shell stated. “Whether it’s before or after deployment, we support the customer so that they have a full understanding that the fluid is performing the way it should be.”But what does it all mean for the datacentre? Yes the whole concept is reliable, but one can argue that it’s difficult to estimate what the adoption of immersion technology actually means, because redundancy plays such a strong part from an operational point of view. Redundancy is an important aspect of datacentre design to ensure high availability and minimal risk of downtime. But the larger the operation, the larger the stakeholder group becomes, the larger the complexity of operational readiness seems to be. This is where a strong partner ecosystem becomes a well-oiled machine, and the likes of Shell, Boston Ltd and Intel are more than ready to explore deeper alongside Asperitas to understand every usecase so customers can adopt the technology with confidence.

“Reliability and redundancy are two different beasts” explains Bouricius “so we take the effort to explain it as well as show what reliability means in terms of immersion. We prepare users and stakeholders with training and education and that’s how we’ve been working together (with partners) for several years.”

Where to start?

Intel is making it clear that they’re available as a trusted partner when it comes to implementing immersion cooling into the datacentre. They’ve published whitepapers on the topic, they’re working closely with tank vendors and they support net-zero requirements. Customers can engage with them or indeed any of the partners that were part of the DCD immersion cooling panel to keep them right. All companies say that the time is now. Bouricius:

“This is the moment to get ready. How to do that, my advice would be to map out three things as a user: What are your sustainability objectives in the next few years? Get a road map on that. What are your performance requirements in the next few years? Where do you see your workloads being facilitated? If you know those three things, then all of the partners on the panel today can help you out in finding the right solution for your usecase. From that moment on, it's a matter of gaining experience via remote testing and on-site experiences, start piloting and then building your scale-out plan.”

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