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IBM Pushing Water-Cooled Servers, Meeting Resistance

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the let's-compromise-on-water-vapor dept.

Power 159

judgecorp writes "IBM has said that water-cooled servers could become the norm in ten years. The company has lately been promoting wider user of the forty-year-old mainframe technology (e.g., here's a piece from April 2008), which allows faster clock speeds and higher processing power. But IBM now says water cooling is greener and more efficient, because it delivers waste heat in a form that's easier to re-use. They estimate that water can be up to 4,000 times more effective in cooling computer systems than air. However, most new data center designs tend to take the opposite approach, running warmer, and using free-air cooling to expend less energy in the first place. For instance, Dutch engineer Imtech sees no need for water cooling in its new multi-story approach which reduces piping and saves waste."

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Frosty Piss (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28007915)

I like to water-cool my balls.

Re:Frosty Piss (0, Offtopic)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008037)

I like to water-cool my balls.

I had a Japanese car that used to blow A/C down there. It was great; balls are on the outside of the body because they don't like body heat. Maybe Japan sells special water-cooled underwear. After all, they specialize in high-tech toiletries. (Just hope it doesn't spring a leak during a presentation.)

Re:Frosty Piss (3, Informative)

sigxcpu (456479) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008179)

Some tanks have air conditioning.
Air conditioning the whole tank does not make sense because once you fire the cannon a few times the whole place is very hot.
What they do is have a hose that hooks up to the special overall tankers wear and supplies you with cool air where you need it most.
The hose connector is at the center of the suit.

Any prediction over ten years is null and void (4, Insightful)

Meshach (578918) | more than 5 years ago | (#28007921)

These kind of predictions always remind me of Bill Gates asserting that "640 K should be enough for anybody."

Hardware and software faces change so fast; who has any idea what will be required or available in even ten years?

Re:Any prediction over ten years is null and void (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28008121)

Only on slashdot could a topical second post (preceding a frosty piss troll) be marked as redundant...

Re:Any prediction over ten years is null and void (3, Informative)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008887)

I doubt Bill Gates ever said that. He's claimed the contrary on several occasions:
http://www.usnews.com/usnews/biztech/gatesivu.htm [usnews.com]
http://www.wired.com/politics/law/news/1997/01/1484 [wired.com]

But yes, making predictions for the future is dumb. Unless you control the future, in which case it's not really a prediction *cough* Moore's Law *cough*

Re:Any prediction over ten years is null and void (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28009309)

I bet you're one of the luddites who thinks that bible is gods word, just because it says so...

IBM was the evil empire before the evil empire. Yet they don't control much anything today.

Have a nice day!

Re:Any prediction over ten years is null and void (2, Insightful)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008953)

It's much easier to predict the past, however, if you've been paying attention. Early computers blended their cooling system with the heating system of the surrounding building. They were sometimes designed together that way.

In my day... (0, Offtopic)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 5 years ago | (#28007969)

Kids used to polish the radiator's on their cars...

Now get off my damn lawn!

What a waste of water! (1, Funny)

failedlogic (627314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28007971)

The community in which a server farms is found surely has a need for what will be thousands of gallons a day. To the benefit of all, I'd suggest diverting a small amount of the heated water (hopefully near boiling) to another piping system in the building .... which would be routed to a building-wide coffee or espresso maker. Great for the employees and with an outside tap, the community can get free coffee to boot. If anyone from Greenpeace shows up to protest about the water wastage, avoid telling them about the coffee maker - it'll keep them up longer to protest.

Re:What a waste of water! (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008011)

would be routed to a building-wide coffee...the community can get free coffee to boot.

Is that a pun?
   

Re:What a waste of water! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28009537)

Is that a pun?

Yes, son. Puns are fun.

Re:What a waste of water! (1)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008025)

Good idea! And the server farm can come ready-equipped with a camera and web server to show the status of the coffee maker.

Re:What a waste of water! (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 5 years ago | (#28010865)

There is already a RFC defining a protocol for this, no need to reinvent the wheel.

HTCPCP [ietf.org]

Re:What a waste of water! (0, Troll)

More_Cowbell (957742) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008071)

I'm finding it hard to believe that someone with such a low /. UID would not know that water cooling systems for computers are self contained... (at least traditionally, TFA does not suggest otherwise).

Re:What a waste of water! (-1, Troll)

daveime (1253762) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008127)

Self contained would imply no radiation / conduction / convection of the waste heat generated by the CPU. So where does it go brainiac ?

Of course it's NOT self-contained. One way or another the heat has to be transferred out of the system. Now maybe you could use a Stirling Engine or whatever to efficiently convert the heat back into another form ... or better still, into hot coffee.

Re:What a waste of water! (2, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008389)

Self contained would imply no radiation / conduction / convection of the waste heat generated by the CPU.

I agree. Any alternative interpretation - such as that it recirculates the water - is clearly preposterous.

Re:What a waste of water! (1)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008567)

You're not going to get water hot enough to make coffee unless you run the servers at 90C+. There's that whole second law of thermodynamics thing. You also need a temperature gradient to drive heat transfer according to the basic heat exchanger design equation:

Heat transfer=Heat transfer coefficient*area*mean temperature difference

(You could use Fourier's law [wikipedia.org] if you prefer).
A better use would be a district heating across the building the server farm is in. How well that works depends a lot on where you are. But this scheme doesn't inherently waste either water or energy. It also allows you to run cooler, as most people won't want their rooms warmer than 30C. I think that a waste-free implementation would be very difficult to design though.

Re:What a waste of water! (5, Interesting)

seanadams.com (463190) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008079)

The community in which a server farms is found surely has a need for what will be thousands of gallons a day. To the benefit of all, I'd suggest diverting a small amount of the heated water (hopefully near boiling) to another piping system in the building ....

I'm sure it could be designed as a closed system with a heat exchange into the ground or outdoors. Indeed, it is the high temperature (relative to outdoors) at which the water is extracted straight off the CPU which makes this more efficient than air conditioning.

However if you wanted to let it feed into the building's hot water system, it turns out there is already a really elegant way to do that: a tempering valve. It's a mechnical device which chooses the right amount of hot and cold water (each of arbitrary, variable temperatures) to produce some fixed output temperature. So to make moderately hot water you can combine some warm water from the servers and some super hot water from the boiler. The "free" server heat offsets the amount of water that needs to be heated by conventional means.

Re:What a waste of water! (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008299)

That's still quite a bit of hot water. I'm sure very little would be used in an office environment. Residential would be more like it if possible.

Perhaps it would be better to engineer the hardware to run warm-hot. Having to chill the water down to outside ambient temp (no compressors needed) would save a lot of energy and cost.

Re:What a waste of water! (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008429)

That's still quite a bit of hot water. I'm sure very little would be used in an office environment. Residential would be more like it if possible.

Perhaps it would be better to engineer the hardware to run warm-hot. Having to chill the water down to outside ambient temp (no compressors needed) would save a lot of energy and cost.

Maybe google could get an environmental initiative grant to provide a staff swimming pool.

Re:What a waste of water! (1)

horza (87255) | more than 5 years ago | (#28009833)

You could force the techies to take a shower at least once a day, to drain off the excess hot water, though this scheme may find some staff resistance.

Phillip.

Re:What a waste of water! (2, Interesting)

cdxta (1170917) | more than 5 years ago | (#28009203)

Why not just pipe the warm water from the servers in to the boiler and then the boiler has to heat the water less?

Re:What a waste of water! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28009323)

you could always use excess warm water (in a closed loop) to "charge" a ground source heat pump therefore storing the heat for use later in the year underground (GSHP's don't always keep up with the heat required and can need additional heat input from a boiler or furnace). Given the temperature a few feet under ground is still fairly cool even in summer the returning water ought to be relatively cold. This would improve the efficiency of GSHP, other things like placing the pipes for the heat pump under a black-topped carpark (these can reach over 40C even in temperate climates) would further reduce heating costs. systems have been trialled ,in scotland (i think), to keep roads ice free during winter using heat gathered from beneath the road surface during summer and stored in insulated underground water tanks, mostly these just need a solar powered water pump and a thermostat and keep the road around 3C.

Re:What a waste of water! (1)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 5 years ago | (#28009703)

***Given the temperature a few feet under ground is still fairly cool even in summer the returning water ought to be relatively cold.***

Well, yeah. But isn't that because dirt is a lousy heat conductor? What's going to happen when you start trying to exchange a gazillion BTU per hour generated by your server farm into it? I'm not sure that you are wrong, but I think you might be. The ground just might not behave like an infinitely large heat sink/source?

Re:What a waste of water! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28010233)

earth has a high thermal capacity and takes a long time to heat up, which is good. so it stores a lot of thermal energy without raising the temperature so much (there is a difference between heat and temperature), but if combined with some of the other suggestions(swimming pools, hot water, space heating etc) it could provide a means to put some waste heat to use, that would other wise require energy to return to a suitable temperature.If the area and amount of tubing was correctly calculated it could handle a gazzilion BTUs, it might not be a practical size but it could handle it if you could fit it.
The millennium seed bank project on Svalbard used huge temporary chiller units to cool the surrounding rock to -18C during preparation and once the required temperature was reached these were replaced with far smaller units,just to maintain the temperature, (for centuries, as far as i understand the idea) using the ground for thermal storage is not so new, ground source heat pumps are well established but seem to work better when there is some means to return heat to the ground, summer cooling or other refrigeration systems (even heard of ice rinks!) these things use, i think, ~1/3 the energy to provide the same heat as generating the heat directly, since its just being moved rather than created.

Re:What a waste of water! (-1, Offtopic)

MrMista_B (891430) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008081)

These days, Greenpeace is no better than PETA.

Re:What a waste of water! (1, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008229)

Greenpeace is no better than PETA.

I beg to differ. Greenpeace is sleazy, but PETA is a nut-cult.

-jcr

Re:What a waste of water! (1, Flamebait)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008433)

Greenpeace is no better than PETA.

I beg to differ. Greenpeace is sleazy, but PETA is a nut-cult.

-jcr

Great pun - if you've ever been to a PETA buffer you will know that there are plenty of nuts around

Re:What a waste of water! (-1, Offtopic)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008533)

I meet a guy the other day that asked if I wanted to join Greenpeace, I declined and he then asked if I would join PETA!

I presume that makes him a sleazy-nut-cultist.

Re:What a waste of water! (0, Offtopic)

Sparky McGruff (747313) | more than 5 years ago | (#28009817)

Greenpeace is sleazy, but PETA is a nut-cult.

Are those nuts water cooled?

hmm.. (1)

off1c3r (1557607) | more than 5 years ago | (#28007993)

Seems like if one system goes bad, they have to shut down the whole array because of the water process? I guess when people complain about not having hot water, they won't call their utilities anymore, it would be the datacenter.

Re:hmm.. (1)

XDirtypunkX (1290358) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008033)

A little piece of technology called an "isolation valve" helps with that one.

Re:hmm.. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28008075)

This is IBM... Do you _really_ think they'd design it in such a way that you'd have to take down the whole thing to fix a small section?

You wouldn't have one long pipe running to all of them, with no way to shut off segments/individual nodes.

Re:hmm.. (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008439)

This is IBM... Do you _really_ think they'd design it in such a way that you'd have to take down the whole thing to fix a small section?

You wouldn't have one long pipe running to all of them, with no way to shut off segments/individual nodes.

No, but they might assume that the world will never need more than one hot water system.

Re:hmm.. (2, Insightful)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 5 years ago | (#28009021)

Sort of depends on where the water's coming from, doesn't it? I remember once when the water piping in an old -- think it was a 360/95 or some such oddity -- failed (yes, it was a looong time ago) and the area under the false floor flooded. This was before Ethernet and the floor was a rats nest of individual terminal cables (not from the 360) -- hundreds of them, along with power cabling. The real problem surfaced (so to speak) some time later, when the actual rodents who did make a rats nest of it displayed the properties of dissolved urea and the effect of said resultant acid on the pre-teflon (I did say it was a while ago) cable insulation.

Needless to say, it was a rat shit situation, and I was never more glad that I'd gone down the software track. Nobody wanted to get anywhere near the network guys for a while.

When I come to office today (1, Funny)

jigyasubalak (308473) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008067)

I attach the power cable and the network cord to my laptop.
So, will I, now, need to connect a water pipe carrying cold water too?
I wouldn't mind it if I can get my drink of water from it too :)

Re:When I come to office today (2, Interesting)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008421)

In case you didn't know: Water cooling must be in a closed loop. You should not ever need to replace that water. If you do, you can destroy your coolers, because growing crystals will burst them. I have seen pictures of that.

Re:When I come to office today (4, Informative)

miffo.swe (547642) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008777)

Problems with crystals comes with some types of water where there are a high degree of lime in it. While its simpler to just use heat exchangers you could also use waterfilters that separates the minerals from the water before use. Most places have water with low amounts of lime and minerals so deposits arent really a problem.

I had a company that made solar panels (heating houses) and inverters for house warming. In some cases we took ground water and extracted heat directly from it and when taken apart those heat exchangers very rarely showed any deposits at all even after ten years of use.

The easiest way to see what type of water you have is to look in your toilet and your sink. If there are much deposits there (not brown ones) you have water thats high with lime or other minerals.

Personally, I like the idea. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28008137)

look at some of the newer blades or blade-ish solutions from supermicro, with 4 dual-socket boards in 2u. Dang near half the space is now taken up by ram slots. Suppose they switched to sodimms packed in like heatsink fins on one of those boards, and you could possibly cram in 2 more sockets with waterblocks.

Similar re-arrangement with blade boards would likely also be possible.

In a dedicated datacenter, I can't think of any real great money saving solutions for the waste heat, but it WOULD allow you to more easily cool everything with a large ground loop to get 50-55 degree water. Add a few more loops so you can melt the snow off the parking lot in the winter and bleed off heat there. Add a large tank of water and radiators to take advantage of cool nights to pre-cool the water before the chillers.

Only chill the water with the chillers when needed. Seems to make a lot of sense to me.

In smaller serverrooms in large office buildings, pre-heat the hot water, pipe the hot water to help heat the building in the winter, and depending on location and if its a mixed use building, you MIGHT be able to sell some of the heat to other building tenants.

Personally, if I was building a new house, I'd have ground loop heat pump for cooling, heating, put a decent sized water tank on the top floor/attic that I could use to preheat hot water in the winter (also be good to hook into for solar hot water on the roof) and a water tank in the basement/crawl space as a source for cooling. Add some electronics to determine where to draw water source, and where to push water return for different devices depending on temperatures of each given tank, as well as when to run ground source heat pump or outside radiator and I think I could cut heating/cooling costs by a huge margin.

Now if only we had a good way to pipe the light from all the blinking LED's to where its needed to remove the ugly florescent lighting. That or get everyone to work by the glow of their CRT/LCD

Re:Personally, I like the idea. (1)

jhw539 (982431) | more than 5 years ago | (#28011085)

A ground loop is not effective for a continuous cooling load - the ground loop is more a season heat storage medium than a heat sink. A cooling tower system is the traditional approach to achieving water at 55F for free cooling. Actually, we're using air to water coils that control datacenter temperature with 65F water, which can be achieved the majority of the time from cooling towers in many climates.

Resistance (5, Funny)

spectrokid (660550) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008153)

If they meet resistance, can't they just add some salt to the water?

Re:Resistance (1)

Korbeau (913903) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008243)

they should just use air, no?

Re:Resistance (1)

drunkenoafoffofb3ta (1262668) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008367)

seems like if water is meeting resistance, then pressure's building up. Server explosion!

Re:Resistance (1)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008711)

Is it bad that I actually winced when I read that?

Re:Resistance (3, Funny)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 5 years ago | (#28009429)

That's because salt isn't the solution, it's the precipitate.

_Ouch_. Please stop hitting me.

Re:Resistance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28009601)

You've misinterpreted it.

The servers they're pushing are bulky, and resist being pushed.

Not for all (5, Interesting)

masterfpt (1435165) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008183)

I worked in several banks using IBM mainframes. The server room was always like a freezer.

I think for now, many companies are perfectly ok with air cooling solutions. Besides, it's much safer to have air-conditioning and fans than some liquid flowing. The simpler the system, the less accidents occur within it...

And believe me when I say that, if a company owns an IBM mainframe, they pay big bucks and they *don't* want any accidents.

Re:Not for all (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008527)

I worked in several banks using IBM mainframes. The server room was always like a freezer. I think for now, many companies are perfectly ok with air cooling solutions.

Me too. I didn't have to wear an aqualung and enter through an airlock, so they can't have been water cooled.

And believe me when I say that, if a company owns an IBM mainframe, they pay big bucks and they *don't* want any accidents.

Better steer clear of them there new-fangled 3090 models, then. It's a fad, I tell you.

Re:Not for all (3, Insightful)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008623)

I think for now, many companies are perfectly ok with air cooling solutions. Besides, it's much safer to have air-conditioning and fans than some liquid flowing.

If some companies can make fridges that do not leak coolant. I'm pretty sure IBM can make mainframes that do not leak their coolant either.

Re:Not for all (1)

masterfpt (1435165) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008797)

The servers are already inside a big freezer.

But I believe you are right. It doesn't leak any coolant (at least not directly to the servers) he he

Air is not necessarily simpler (5, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008719)

Actually, you are wrong. Designing an air cooled system is hard. You have to deal with problems of filtration (there will be dust - but where do you want it to build up?), ensuring that the flow goes where you want, turbulence, finding room for the ducting, designing the system so that components do not mask other components, and needing to handle high volumes of air. With properly designed water cooling, you have a few quite simple heat removal blocks and a simple plumbing system which can route pretty much anywhere.

This is why nowadays virtually all internal combustion engines of any power output use liquid cooling despite the apparent reliability benefits of air cooling. To take the transition period, WW2, as an example, you only have to look at the complexity of American rotary aircooled designs versus, say, the liquid cooled Merlin engine, to see the point. It would be astonishing if the same transition did not eventually occur for large computers.

Re:Air is not necessarily simpler (3, Informative)

mangu (126918) | more than 5 years ago | (#28009245)

you only have to look at the complexity of American rotary aircooled designs versus, say, the liquid cooled Merlin engine,

I think you mean radial engines [wikipedia.org] , because rotary engines [wikipedia.org] may look similar when not running but are an entirely different thing.

Air cooled engines are still used in small planes, their weight to power ratio is better than in water cooled engines. In larger aircraft both water and air cooled engines were replaced by turbines.

Also, air cooled engines are still widely used in motorcycles. I think the main motive for not using them in cars anymore is due mostly to the difficulty in cooling in an enclosed region, have you seen how cramped is a modern car under the hood?

The main advantage of water cooling is that it's easier to carry the heat away to some place where it can be either reused for some other purpose or dumped to the environment. With air cooling you have to bring a substantial amount of cool air to where the heat is being generated.

However I still think computers are mostly in the range where it's easier to bring the air in. The amount of heat dissipated per volume of equipment is not so great that the additional complexity of water cooling would be justified.

Re:Air is not necessarily simpler (1)

lazyforker (957705) | more than 5 years ago | (#28010257)

Also, air cooled engines are still widely used in motorcycles. I think the main motive for not using them in cars anymore is due mostly to the difficulty in cooling in an enclosed region, have you seen how cramped is a modern car under the hood?

Water-cooled engines are quieter. In addition to the sound-baffling that water provides, many air-cooled engines need additional fans. Think of the original VW Beetle or the older Porsche 911's. Their engines sound a lot different from most cars.

Re:Air is not necessarily simpler (1)

Targon (17348) | more than 5 years ago | (#28009689)

I would expect it to happen eventually to normal home computers, the key is in how reliable the systems are, plus getting the public to be aware of adding new coolant to the system. Many people HATE how loud computers can be, so liquid would help solve that in the long term.

Before you can point out the problems with end-users and water cooling, keep in mind that as any technology gains in popularity, there will be increasing amounts of innovation that would improve on the designs.

Re:Air is not necessarily simpler (1)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 5 years ago | (#28010407)

Wait, are we talking about water-cooled servers (as in the water flows right over the cpu) or water-cooled rooms? Because if it is the former, then you are probably still going to have to deal with an air cooling system. Perhaps it won't be as complex or as important in the overall sense, but you probably still have to have the room cooled in some fashion, which brings up most of the issues you claim it will remove. If it is the latter, then I am unaware of the feasibility of water cooled rooms with such heat producing monsters as a room full of racks.

Re:Air is not necessarily simpler (2, Interesting)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | more than 5 years ago | (#28010737)

Actually, you are wrong. Designing an air cooled system is hard. You have to deal with problems of filtration (there will be dust - but where do you want it to build up?), ensuring that the flow goes where you want, turbulence, finding room for the ducting, designing the system so that components do not mask other components, and needing to handle high volumes of air. With properly designed water cooling, you have a few quite simple heat removal blocks and a simple plumbing system which can route pretty much anywhere.

The reality is that there are pros and cons to water cooling vs. air cooling and people have to weigh both and decide what works for them. While your post is essentially correct, it's also a bit heavy on the theoretical. I remember working at a place that had water cooled IBM mainframes. This was a US government facility and it was in a building I almost never had to go to. I remember downtimes there because "the water chiller is down" or there was a leak and a hellacious mess of water was under the floor. So please do not continue to suggest that water cooling is 100% great and has no flaws. People went to air cooling for a reason - to stop having to deal with the messes that could happen when there were leaks or downtimes when the water chilling device broke down.

Takes me back... (2, Informative)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008209)

I remember that IBM had an office building in Manassas, VA that was heated by the mainframes in the building. They got a lot of press at the time for that.

-jcr

Re:Takes me back... (1)

JDub87 (1391689) | more than 5 years ago | (#28010389)

I was born and raised in Manassas, VA - I never heard of or saw this IBM building... how long ago was this?

I watercooled my server years ago!!! (0)

therufus (677843) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008221)

Try to keep up IBM. I built my computers years ago. I built a server/workstation 2 PC combo in a rack unit and used watercooling to cool both computers [austech.info] . In a server farm situation it makes sense too. You can recycle your water and I think it would be cheaper to cool water than air. Am I right?

Re:I watercooled my server years ago!!! (1)

f0dder (570496) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008363)

What was your server uptime? Are they still running?

Re:I watercooled my server years ago!!! (2, Informative)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008399)

You can recycle your water

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by that, but either way you can't.
In case you mean replacing the water: You're doing it wrong! ^^ The more often you replace the water, the more likely it is for your coolers to get some mineral crystals to grow. In two years, your CPU cooler might suddenly burst, killing your whole electronics.
This even happens with distilled water, because there is no 100% in nature.
There are even galleries out there of such bursts, including images of huge crystals inside the coolers.

So usually, you use some protective fluid to mix with the water. And that stuff can't be recycled I think.

Re:I watercooled my server years ago!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28009013)

You keep repeating this. It's a legitimate issue - for hobbyists. I am guessing the photos you have seen were of hobbyist systems.

Do you really think IBM is going to pour hard water into their reservoirs? Do you think they aren't going to put additives in the water and treat the plumbing to eliminate deposits? They are engineers who have thought about this problem for a long time, and they are supplying systems to companies who are paying a lot of money.

Re:I watercooled my server years ago!!! (4, Informative)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008501)

Try to keep up IBM.

IBM was water-cooling machines at least as early as the 1970s.

-jcr

Re:I watercooled my server years ago!!! (2, Informative)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008853)

True, and everybody knows that.

Or so I thought. Yet this assclown [slashdot.org] , who clearly doesn't know the difference between an IBM and a BMW, is at +5 insightful.

Re:I watercooled my server years ago!!! (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 5 years ago | (#28010789)

1960s, and more vendors than just IBM.

IBM needs a physics lesson (1)

Saysys (976276) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008233)

We could save a lot of money by putting all that light-bulb heat to use.. to bad entropy makes these sorts of schemes uneconomical.

Re:IBM needs a physics lesson (3, Interesting)

RsG (809189) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008407)

We could save a lot of money by putting all that light-bulb heat to use.. to bad entropy makes these sorts of schemes uneconomical.

Entropy doesn't make those situations uneconomical. It makes them quite literally impossible.

However, define "use". Remember that you can use heat for more than electricity generation (made impossible in this case). You can't get net energy out of it, thermodynamically speaking. Entropy reigns. But you can still use it as heat.

Hypothetical example: you build a cooling system for a server (water, air, it doesn't matter). You now have a radiator giving off waste heat. That waste heat can be used for some other, non power-generating purpose. What matters is that the heat is carried away from the radiator at a constant rate, or the cooling system will have to work harder to get the same result.

You could use a water tank as a heat sink, then use the heated water for the usual purposes (washing, cooking, what have you). As the hot water heater/heat sink is drained, cool water is pumped in to replace it, allowing the radiator to continue functioning. In this instance the heat is used directly, as heat.

The reason this doesn't run up against thermodynamics is that the hypothetical second use of the heat replaces an existing system you'd have to generate heat for (a conventional hot water heater). The system is still entropic and inefficient, it's just less inefficient than generating the same heat energy a second time. You go from the net waste being X% to the waste being X%. Whether this is worth the bother is a question of the circumstances.

Re:IBM needs a physics lesson (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28010561)

In reality that also depends of the scale, I know a clear case in a factory, the put a heat electric generator to reuse the wasted head from a ceramic oven, in the numbers efficiency can be seen low (between 10% to 20%) but if you put absolute numbers the feat is not low as they are generating more than 30kw for their electrical installation.

Great working conditions... (5, Funny)

yogibaer (757010) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008287)

From the article: "We can use that to heat offices, or water for a swimming pool". Job Ad: "Wanted: Sysadmin, we offer: all year heated office (20+ C), swimming pool, Jacuzzi (body temperature) integrated coffe mug wamer in tabletop and always a nice, warm breeze from our datacenter." IBM could even use the swimming pool as a cooling tank (or is it the other way round?).

Random related fact (3, Interesting)

Another, completely (812244) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008759)

The Lindt & Sprungli chocolate factory in Zurich, Switzerland uses waste heat from the factory to heat a public swimming pool across the road.

4000 times? (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008305)

Where do people always get these kinds of numbers. I dare to guess that in reality it's not even 2 times more effective :p

Re:4000 times? (4, Funny)

theheadlessrabbit (1022587) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008357)

Where do people always get these kinds of numbers.

this is a situation where a link to goatse would actually answer your question.

Re:4000 times? (4, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008467)

Just try this. See how long you can stand naked (OK wear some running shorts) in air at 5 degrees centigrade. Probably fifteen minutes standing still or indefinitely if running.

Now see how long you can stay in water at 5 degrees centigrade. For most people it would be less than a minute - you may not even be able to get in.

Re:4000 times? (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 5 years ago | (#28009917)

A much simpler explaination is a nice hot oven. Not a problem sticking your arm in there, even if it's 200 C (392F) as long as you don't touch the sides. Not really recomended doing that with water that's not quite boiling (say 93 C, 200F).

Re:4000 times? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28010819)

Yeah, right.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_swimming

Re:4000 times? (4, Interesting)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008573)

Water has a density of 1000kg per meter^3. Air is 1Kg per meter^3. Water has a much higher heat capacity than air. Current systems go from CPU->Air->Water and you need a thermal gradient for each, not to mention that blasting cold air through a server wastes quite a lot of air. Cut out the air and 4000 times seems quite likely, but I can't be bothered running the numbers.

Re:4000 times? (1)

Targon (17348) | more than 5 years ago | (#28009651)

These numbers are generated scientifically, not just by some "study". Liquid cooling works MUCH better than air cooling, but generally requires more maintenance in a single computer system. With a full building system where water is being pumped in from a larger system, there might not be as much maintenance needed, but the need to replace various components, like the tubes or fasteners for the tubes might require more maintenance than some people are familiar with.

Ratio of specific heat capacities (5, Informative)

NCamero (35481) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008385)

All IBM is saying is that water is a better heat conductor, and air is an insulator.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specific_heat_capacity [wikipedia.org]

Water ; 4 J /cm^3 K
Air ; 0.001 J /cm^3 K

Water/Air = 4000 times more heat transfer.

So, given the choice, you would use water to transfer heat.

Re:Ratio of specific heat capacities (2, Insightful)

SlashWombat (1227578) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008599)

Yes, but eventually, all that heat ends up in the air anyway ... the water is only the middleman. Water is actually probably the most efficient coolant around, however, the latent heat of evaporation means it works best when it is boiled off the surface to be cooled. This is not exactly ideal for a semiconductor, although it might be okay if the water was in direct contact with the silicon. (Silicon junction temperatures must be kept below 360 degrees Celsius.)

Re:Ratio of specific heat capacities (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008613)

then datacenters simply need nuclear plant style evaporative cooling towers.

Re:Ratio of specific heat capacities (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008831)

Spot on, plus evaporative cooling consumes a bit of water. Unfortunately they would also need a power station quality water treatment plant so all that hot copper doesn't corrode - that or use a lot of brass instead which is a reasonable conductor.

Re:Ratio of specific heat capacities (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 5 years ago | (#28009491)

Yes, but you have to *pump* that air. Pumping all that air through your rack door, your server covers, past all the components in the server, and out that rat's nest of cabling at the back is awkward, expensive, and unreliable, especially with (as someone else pointed out) dust collecting and clotting your filters or collecting on your heat sinks. It's not as bad in a good server room because the air is filtered, but it still collects, especially in less sophisticated server environments such as many offices have. And snaking the airflow past the cabling is still pesky, although switching to thinner SATA and SAS cabling instead of IDE and SCSI have helped quite a lot. Getting that waterflow directly to the heat sink of the CPU, or at least to a big heat sink that the server will pull its air past, can make for a lot of both design and energy efficiency.

These cooling issues are also why I take the doors and cute little server covers off all my equipment racks. There is nothing stupider in your data center than blocking the airflow with a door that you don't use, never lock, and which breaks protruding cable left by interns who haven't learned to wire neatly yet.

Re:Ratio of specific heat capacities (4, Informative)

Aceticon (140883) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008851)

My personal experience with using passive (no fans) water-cooling with my desktop PC at home (the setup is similar to this: http://www.silent.se/bilder/reserator1_c_p-410.jpg [silent.se] ) is that that it's exceptionally effective.

In my setup a cylinder full of water surrounded by fins to dissipate the heat and with a pump to make water flow as the only active element have replaced a big nasty CPU heatsink with a large fan (on a heavily overclocked CPU)* and a set of fans on a single high-end graphics card of the previous generation. At an ambient temperature in the room where this is in of about 20-25C The whole thing idles at 28C and stays at around 60C with everything going on at max - considering that with everything going on at full throttle the system is using almost 400W, it's impressive how efficient it all is.

In practice, "home" water-cooling mostly just uses the water as a heat carrier to quickly move the heat around from the inside of the computer case (and it's constrained airflow) to a place where it is easier to dissipate that heat into the ambient air either with a more efficient radiator and fans (for the active systems) or with an outsized heatsink (like the one I use which has roughly 10 times the surface of the ones it replaces).

In an "industrial" deployment, said heat being carried in the water cold potentially be used/dissipated in many more ways. For example large pipes could transport the hot water coming out of a data-center to the sea or a river and let it be dissipated there (keeping a closed circuit and returning the cool water back for reuse). The actual running costs in terms of active elements for such a system are limited to the cost of running a number of large efficient water pumps that make the water flow around the circuite as opposed to most data-centers out there at the moment that use (less efficient) small fans to move the air out of the blade boxes into the room and then active refrigeration to cool down the air in the room.

* Since the point of my argument is not to show off my "virtual dick", I've moved the relevant stats down here for those that are curious on the details: CPU - Core 2 Quad 2.4 GHz which is overclocked to 3.2GHz, GPU - GTS280

Re:Ratio of specific heat capacities (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 5 years ago | (#28009283)

strictly speaking, a "Passive" cooling system has no moving parts... therefore your system was not passive as you had a pump.

Re:Ratio of specific heat capacities (1)

Targon (17348) | more than 5 years ago | (#28009581)

You didn't mention that if the water is hot, it would be possible to recapture some of the energy in the form of an electric generator. The amount may not be terribly high initially, but if you are pumping water to help with cooling, the system could also supply some energy to help offset the water pump costs.

Re:Ratio of specific heat capacities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28010263)

Ok. I am not saying your math is wrong. But if water is that much better at cooling. Why is the earth (75% water) suffering from Global Warming. We should be in '4000' ice ages... LOL

multi-story approach (1)

edittard (805475) | more than 5 years ago | (#28008863)

Sounds like a tall tale to me.

Water cooling should not be a sop to consumption (2, Insightful)

niks42 (768188) | more than 5 years ago | (#28009103)

Whatever the technologies that are available, we shouldn't as a society use them to be wasteful. If we could still efficiently cool a power-hungry, inefficient processor complex using a liquid rather than air, it doesn't make it a good idea. It would be better to design a data center that didn't require such amounts of energy in the first place.

This reminds me of recycling schemes that make people think it is OK to overpackage goods in the first place.

Re:Water cooling should not be a sop to consumptio (1)

PJ1216 (1063738) | more than 5 years ago | (#28010857)

Until the desire for efficient power use outweighs the desire (or even need) for faster, more powerful data centers, there will always be a need for cooling systems. When it gets to a point where people want efficiency (or need efficiency), then you'll see data centers that don't require as much power.

You can't realistically develop towards maximizing efficiency AND power. At a certain point, you have to sacrifice a little bit of one for the other. To maximize both would require too much time in development and you'll fall behind in the competition. Being one generation (or more) will kill most, though the efficiency niche market will still hold you up, just not all that well.

Meeting Resistance (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 5 years ago | (#28009299)

Try replacing the copper pipes with gold ones, that should make the current flow more easily.

Central Watercooling. (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 5 years ago | (#28009321)

I expect integrated power-and-watercooling sockets all over the house. The forced flow, the air conditioning unit integrated with water cooling facility, pump and reservoir, also using the heated water as heat source for heat pump.

Re:Central Watercooling. (1)

zrq (794138) | more than 5 years ago | (#28010071)

integrated power-and-watercooling sockets

That is just plain scary.

IBM stories (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28009501)

I worked for IBM in the 80's for a little while. One site I visited sold the waste heat from their seven (water-cooled) mainframes to a nearby housing estate. There was also a story the sales guys likes to tell about Amdahl (a major rival) and their air-cooled mainframes.

So the Amdahl engineers had installed the new machine in its shiny new machine room, threaded all the cables under the false floor, hooked up the disk drives etc. and started commissioning it. All went well for a few hours then CRASH.

Turned out the disk drive cables had come loose from the underside of the CPU. OK, plug them back in, tighten all the screws, put the flooring back down, start again. Few hours later the same thing, with added stripped screws on the plug (think of a VGA plug magnified about 3 times in each direction).

Transpired that the nw false floor was a bit too shiny and the cooling air exhaust from the CPU (a box maybe 6 feet long, 2 wide and 5 high, weighing a ton or two) was slowly sliding it across the room by jet propulsion.

A couple of summers later I worked for a civil service site. They had two IBM mainframes and two Crays, but vented all the heat (and that from the nuclear reactors) into the surrounding air. Meanwhile the site was heated by an ancient coal boiler several miles away and leaky steam pipes!

Steve

Looking forward, not back (1)

Targon (17348) | more than 5 years ago | (#28009547)

For those who are in a position to design their own building with this sort of thing in mind, then yes, there may be ways to just design the building to get a better cooling environment. That is not always possible or practical though. Using a liquid cooling solution may very well be the future, but the real key is to make sure the cooling systems require as little attention as possible, and the amount of maintenance for cooling is fairly low.

Think about it, if you run your systems off-site, the last thing you want would be to have to fly someone to the site just to maintain the cooling system if it is unusual. It really depends on the design, and how long the liquid cooling system within a computer can go without maintenance. Most air cooled systems can go for upwards of five years without a fan going bad.

Meeting Resistance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28010165)

sounds like the Tubes are blocked - bring out the descalers!

IBM will do anything to justify their design... (1)

Osvaldo Doederlein (34220) | more than 5 years ago | (#28010361)

...that insists pushing bigger clock speeds. I fully expect IBM to promote liquid Nitrogen cooling in another couple years.

They omit an important detail. (1)

jonnat (1168035) | more than 5 years ago | (#28010841)

The thermal energy that can be utilized from harnessing waste heat from the server farm is proportional to the the temperature of the heated fluid.

It is true that water is a better medium for storing and transferring heat, but if the goal is to be able to run the servers cooler, then that lower temperature is the maximum temperature they will be able to heat the water to.

Plus, it also boils down to fixed costs. Is it much more expensive to install large heat exchangers that would transfer the heat from cooling air to water (allowing it to reach higher temperatures) than to install the water cooling system in each server?

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