back to article Liquid and immersion is the new cool at Supercomputing '22

It's safe to say liquid cooling was a hot topic at the Supercomputing Conference in Dallas this week.  As far as the eye could see, the exhibition hall was packed with liquid-cooled servers, oil-filled immersion cooling tanks, and all the fittings, pumps, and coolant distribution units (CDUs) you might need to deploy the tech …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting one way trend.

    You'd think someone would be working on making sure tech uses less power, but that side of the equation seems to be only covered by AMD and even not as a critical design element.

    Just an observation..

    1. amacater

      Re: Interesting one way trend.

      Nobody yet loves ARM _enough_ to build a supercomputer out of ARM cores - and even then, supercomputing is its own strange world.

      If you've got a weather forecasting model cranking on PB of stored data, you need grunt processors to do the number crunching - it's not like VMs and webhosting where you can get away with some level of underprovisioning / overselling based on bandwidth used - _all_ your customers don't turn up at once :)

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: Interesting one way trend.

        The fastest supercomputer on the planet until earlier this year was powered by ARM chips...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting one way trend.

      Tech is much lower power than it used to be. That's mostly driven by mobile phone battery life.

      Obviously, the more processors you want to run, the more power it uses, the hotter things will become.

    3. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Interesting one way trend.

      Unless you go squishy with organic computers there's not a lot you can do about it. No matter how clever the design a transistor is going to use some energy and thus get a bit warm, no problem for something with just a few transistors but when you cram billions of them into a square centimetre or so things are going to get toasty. Speed also matters you could slow the clock rate to reduce the heat generated but that sort of defeats the whole point of the exercise.

      1. Potemkine! Silver badge

        Re: Interesting one way trend.

        So superconductivity isn't a hot topic anymore?

        90% of energy used in electronics is converted to heat. There should be gain to make.

        == Bring us Dabbsy back! ==

        1. DJO Silver badge

          Re: Interesting one way trend.

          Making superconductors semiconduct seems a bit of a waste of effort.

  2. Sandtitz Silver badge

    It's like early COMDEX again!

    Every company getting out their own totally different computing platform designs incompatible with all the rest.

    Have to give this one some years before standards emerge.

    (and hopefully server room operators won't be needing plumbing certificates as well)

  3. Notas Badoff

    Smells like those chips are past done

    Mmmkay, 'non-conductive' fluids

    Are they also nonflammable / incombustible fluids ? Asking for a friend's PTSD...

    1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      Re: Smells like those chips are past done

      Often yes, sometimes no but in an oxygen-free, sealed tank nobody can make you burn ...

    2. Bartholomew

      Re: Smells like those chips are past done

      > Are they also nonflammable / incombustible fluids ? Asking for a friend's PTSD...

      1-methoxyheptafluoropropane is Non-flammable, 100% ozone friendly, Non-corrosive, High electrical resistivity of about 10^11 Ω·m (roughly the same as glass). Boiling Point (@ 1 atm) 34°C (93.2°F). Freeze Point. -122°C (-187.6°F). Sold as 3M Novec 7000 Engineered Fluid.

      Hydrofluoroethers are nearly all Non-flammable, their one big downside is the special handling required when eventually being disposed. This typically requires the product being shipped back to the manufactures and for them to handle all legal, environmental and safety requirements when dealing with poisonous by-produced like hydrogen fluoride (search for images of "hydrogen fluoride burns", but do it after lunch) and carbonyl fluoride produced during extreme heat thermal decomposition.

  4. CFtheNonPartisan

    What's New Folks?

    Everything old is new again. Liquid (freon, water) cooling was supplanted by air that is being supplanted by liquid (various) cooling. Vector processors have been supplanted by GPUs that are vector processors. RISC once ruled and economics put CISC in the driver seat - but ARM is starting to wave. Big whoopee on all this 'new stuff'.

    1. Zolko Silver badge

      Re: What's New Folks?

      I tend to say that since 1991 and the invention of the WWW, computing industry has stopped innovation. Since 30 years I can't think of a single new "technology ". Mouse, open-source, windows, Internet, databases, 2D pixel-based screens, RAM, processors ... really, what has changed fundamentally from the Macintosh or Windows 3.1 or HPUX CDE ?

      Why are Facebook and Twitter and Amazon called "tech industry " ? What's so much high-tech about an ad-broker or postal retail store with catalogue ?

  5. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Sounds a great idea! We could even build a datacentre and put it in space and, as there's only radiative cooling, we could use this old-fangled liquid cooling and radiators. Shouldn't cost more than several hundreds of millions of dollars to get a couple of tons of liquid coolant and associated pumps, radiators etc into space. A few hundreds of millions more for flight hardened infrastructure and comms. My fag packet says I can have the current equivalent of a £200K, fully maintainable datacentre running in space, with no possibility of maintenance or upgrade and a limited 5-year life, for only about £1.5bn (including research and testing down the pub). In reality all we have to do is rent a Starlink box to bounce the signals, do all the data storage in an anonymous rented AWS data warehouse in Venezuela, tell people it's the thing in space doing the work and bingo, mucho profitorolo!

    Oops, I almost feel like I've seriously undercut an ESA proposal ... who's in?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      On a serious note, as most space craft probably still user PowerPC chips, but lets say that something produced 10W. How would you cool this down in the near perfectly insulated environment (for convection) in the vacuum of space?

  6. Peter Galbavy

    Apart from the one mention of the Microsoft experiment, very little about heat / energy recovery - and I assume that's on the floor, rather than the lack of coverage in the article.

    Some people are missing opportunities to innovate. Oh, no, wait... let someone else innovate and then steal it! Better,

    1. TRT Silver badge

      I quite like the idea of low grade waste heat being used for, say, warming up polytunnels. Grow potatoes in there. Chip to chips.

  7. ghazestor

    Tech is much lower power than it used to be. That's mostly driven by mobile phone battery life.

  8. StudeJeff

    Immersion cooling.. act with care

    Where I used to work we handled equipment leased out by IBM.

    We received a pallet of some pretty expensive servers that someone had gotten the bright idea to liquid cool with some kind of oil. The things were literally dripping with the stuff.

    Now our job was to receive the equipment, record it's condition, and then get it ready for resale... that could be anything from a full refurb to as good or better than new condition to scrap it.

    There was no way we could clean those servers, they were scrapped and someone got a BIG bill.

    Of course if it's something designed for immersion cooling that's different, but these were standard 1U servers.

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