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IBM pushes forward with liquid cooling for 2013

As a youngster, you loved Black Sabbath, AC/DC and The Avengers. But , somehow, the whole world was 30 years behind you. Now, as we enter 2013, the overall market demand for classic rock bands and Marvell Comics seems to know no limits. According to IBM, you’ve been right about liquid cooling all along as well. KitGuru bakes a batch of ‘know it all’ cookies.

Several years ago, the major technology show at CeBIT in Hannover had a huge IBM exhibit. Part of IBM’s ‘let’s show the world how clever we are’ zone had a liquid cooling mock up – showing how the spare energy from a major computer installation could be carried to a nearby town in the form of free heat. It was very impressive, but included a lot of ‘theoreticals’.

Now, it seems, the time for large-scale deployment has arrived.

In 2010, the US Department of Energy did a little calculation and realised that a country that puts a city the size of Las Vegas in the middle of a dessert – and one the size of Chicago into an area that gets regularly buried deep in snow – is going to have some issues with turning the lights on in the future.

The pilot programme in Poughkeepsie (New York – some 100km north of Manhattan) has now yielded some successful results and it seems that an expansion in plans will be called for.

Looking very happy with the project’s success IBM’s self-confessed ‘hopeless romantic’, Kristin Bryson, explained the logic, “With more than 33 million servers in the world, cooling the computers is an acute problem. Most data centres use 25 percent of their total energy to simply cool their machines”.

Liquids can cool hot things. Where do these scientists get their ideas from? Kriston Bryson says IBM knows all about hot stuff.

To give you an idea of how bad things are, think about this: Major companies have the most cash available to evaluate and install intelligent data centre solutions. IDC spoke with the 300 biggest and, after careful consideration, found that only 20% were running their data centres properly. That represents a huge amount of waste.

Much as we’d like to believe that IBM is all about the Amazon, it is actually a commercial enterprise (I know – we were shocked too). Which means that it already has a series of solutions for the issue of energy efficiency and wastage.

Crucial to these new solutions is the notion that liquids are denser than gases – so better able to carry heat energy away from a data centre. Who’d have thunk it?

You can question IBM’s approach to the world of computing, but bear in mind that when it posted its financials earlier this year, it was able to lose 5% of its revenue – while making exactly the same amount of profit. So, as an organisation, it buys into the idea of efficiency from top to bottom. For the purposes of comparison, Intel reported revenues dropping by almost exactly the same percentage (no surprise – they operate in similar areas of the market), but Intel’s net figure dropped by almost 15%. Maybe Vader isn’t quite ready to take the Emperor just yet.

The following diagram is, essentially, an advert for IBM’s solution – but it has some nice diagrams and pretty colours – ideal for a rainy Sunday morning we think. Prepare for some world-class spinning.

KitGuru says: Overclocking has always made perfect sense to you and, from the first time an HB pencil was used to add more megahurts to an AMD chip, you’ve known that this kind of flexibility was the future. Following closely behind ‘sensible overclocking’ came ‘extreme overclocking’ and – with that – a need for liquids. Isn’t it always the left-field idea that, ultimately, defines the path for all?

Comment below or in the KitGuru forums.

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