Interview: Asetek to Demonstrate Direct-to-Chip Liquid Cooling at ISC’13

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Asetek has been gaining traction with their liquid cooling technology for the datacenter. After checking out their impressive display at SC12, I decided to circle back with Asetek’s Steve Branton to learn more about what the company has in store for ISC’13 in Leipzig.

insideHPC: Asetek is known for its innovative cooling technologies for extreme PCs. What does your company have to offer the HPC marketplace?

Steve Branton: In the extreme PC market the benefit of our technology is performance, especially for over-clocking. We are also know for providing the same cooling technology for workstation PCs. In the workstation market the benefit is silent operation. Both of these benefits flow from the fact that our liquid cooling technology is more efficient than air cooling. More efficient cooling is the direct benefit we are bringing to the HPC market using the same proven technology. This technology allows HPC data centers to lower their cooling costs, increase density and even recycle the power used by their supercomputers for things like building and water heating.

insideHPC: It seems like more and more high end supercomputers are being deployed with some form of liquid cooling. Does this trend represent a growing business opportunity for Asetek?

Steve Branton: Absolutely.

insideHPC: Is liquid cooling only practical for the very high end of supercomputing?

Steve Branton: No. Asetek liquid cooling is practical for the whole of the HPC market. Certainly if one looks at very high-end supercomputers it is easy to conclude that liquid cooling is expensive. However, the cost of liquid cooling in these systems is more a result these computers being manufactured in rather small volumes which makes everything about them rather expensive. The use of centralized pumping and the associated high pressure design also contributes to the cost of these systems. Asetek uses a distributed pumping model, a low pressure pump on each CPU and GPU. The pumps are arranged in series, giving redundancy. With this approach Asetek is able to do is leverage our manufacturing scale from the desktop market to enable liquid cooling that is affordable across the whole spectrum of HPC product offerings. In particular, we expect to see adoption in the x86 segment of the HPC space.

insideHPC: You recently announced some wins in the U.S. federal space. What do you think are the key differentiators that helped you win the day?

Steve Branton: The US federal government operates close to 2,500 data centers today and many of them have been in operation for quite some time and many were designed at a time when energy efficiency was not a priority. The government has recognized that substantial cost savings opportunities exist. They have mandated both data center consolidation down to approximately 800 data centers and energy efficiency improvements. The government views both reductions in cooling energy and recycling of the energy used to run servers as energy efficiency gains. Asetek’s RackCDU products are capable of increasing density which enables consolidation into existing sites, lowers the energy need to cool data centers and enables the recycling of IT energy. Moreover it is capable of delivering these benefits with at a cost that often has a payback period of less than one year.

insideHPC: What will Asetek be showcasing in your booth at ISC’13?

Steve Branton: We will be showcasing our direct-to-chip (D2C) RackCDU hot-water liquid cooling systems which is available for deployment today. The Cray CS300-LC is the first supercomputer available with this cooling system. We will show case the Cray system as well as several prototypes show casing Asetek Direct to Chip liquid cooling implementations on servers from HP, Cisco and Fujitsu. By cooling the hot-spots in a server (CPUs, GPUs, and memory) these systems remove 60 to 80% of the heat generated by servers with facilities supply water that can be as hot as 40°C.

We will also be showing a prototype of our next generation In-Server Air Conditioning (ISAC) RackCDU system. ISAC is a warm water liquid cooling system that makes it possible to operate servers in hostile environments and in CRAC-less data centers.

insideHPC: What makes ISC’13 appealing to you as an HPC exhibitor?

Steve Branton: European energy markets make the financial benefits of Asetek RackCDU quite strong for data centers operating in the EU. The high server utilization rates common in HPC data centers shortens the time to reaching a positive ROI from liquid cooling. The European Union’s strong stance on environmental leadership provides a favorable social climate that encourages companies and data centers to innovate in energy efficiency. This combination of financial and political forces makes Europe a strong market for Asetek Liquid Cooling. ISC’13 is well positioned to reach the EU supercomputing community and to raise awareness within the community of what is possible with hot-water liquid cooling.