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Don’t Fear Immersion Liquid Cooling in the Data Center

Energy efficiency and cost savings are the big benefits, but it also improves the working environment for data center staff.

James Weynand

May 6, 2021

3 Min Read
GRC's cooling tanks at a CGG data center in Houston
GRC's cooling tanks at a CGG data center in HoustonGRC

Jim Weynard GRC

Jim-Weynand grc headshot

James Weynand is Chief Revenue Officer at Green Revolution Cooling

Immersion cooling isn’t as difficult to implement as many data center operators might think. The big fear is that making the switch will negatively impact day-to-day operations. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Upgrading to immersion cooling provides reliable operations and actually eliminates many of the day-to-day hassles and unwieldy aspects of an air-cooled data center.

Energy efficiency and cost savings are the big benefits of data center immersion cooling, but there are several operational benefits as well.

Immersion Liquid Data Center Cooling Is Almost Silent

Standard data centers are noisy places, with high-velocity server fans and HVAC equipment like fans, condensers, and compressors. And they are only getting louder, in large part because of the growing cooling requirements. Research from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) shows that a 20 percent increase in fan speed (e.g. 3000 rpm to 3600 rpm) increases the noise level by 4 dB.

Noise in data centers is approaching or exceeding regulatory workplace noise limits designed to protect workers in the US and Europe. This is an occupational hazard for anyone spending time in the data center. Exposure to loud noise over time can lead to ringing in the ears, hearing loss from cumulative exposure, and other health issues. While ear coverings and other protective measures are helpful in reducing the effects of noise, the preferred approach to protecting technicians and anyone working in a data center is to eliminate the hazard altogether.

Related:Microsoft’s Tiny Data Center Liquid Cooling Experiment Is a Big Deal

Outside of a slight nose coolant pumps make, liquid-cooled data centers are almost completely silent. This creates a safer and more welcoming work environment and makes it easier for the people working in the data center to communicate.

You Can Leave Your Sweaters at Home

Air in traditional data centers is often kept extra cool to protect servers, making it uncomfortable for employees and visitors. ASHRAE recommends that server inlet temperatures be kept between 64.4F and 80.6F. The Uptime Institute, however, recommends an upper limit of 77F. And while individual preferences lead to a healthy debate over the acceptable workplace temperature, a room that’s supercooled to keep servers operational creates an environment too cold for employees, who must resort to wearing heavy sweaters or coats inside just to do their jobs.

By directly removing heat from servers – and not from the air around them – liquid immersion means the data center can be kept at a comfortable level for people. An immersion-cooled data center is also a more comfortable work environment, thanks to waist-high racks that improve the lighting conditions, as the ceiling lighting can reach everywhere in the room.

Related:Just Add Water: Augmenting Air-Cooled Data Centers with Liquid

Easier to Work with Equipment

Liquid immersion cooling racks are easy to install and maintain. The coolant is completely safe to touch, though some technicians choose to wear nitrile gloves to keep their hands dry. Moving and handling heavy IT equipment for maintenance, installation, and removal is easier with waist-high immersion cooling racks than in vertical server racks. And rack mountable server rails let technicians rest the servers on them for maintenance, effectively creating a waist-high workbench and eliminating the need to move the servers to work on them.

Liquid immersion cooling also improves server reliability and reduces maintenance and service calls, because servers are protected from dust and other air pollutants, and from moisture and oxygen that can cause corrosion. The lack of server fans eliminates vibrations and reseat errors.

When you look at the facts, immersion cooling is all upside. Single-phase, immersion cooled data centers are not more difficult to operate than air-cooled facilities, they’re just different. Data center operators making the switch will experience a brief but manageable adjustment period and then will benefit from the many advantages of single-phase liquid immersion cooling.

Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Informa.

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