We’ve seen a fair few whacky cooling solutions over the years, but a server cooled by mineral oil is a new one to us, even though it’s hardly a new idea in itself. Boston was demoing a small unit of its Hardcore LSS 200 blade server solution at CeBIT which uses custom made enclosures for the slim-line Super Micro blade motherboards, but things are a lot more complex than that.
The idea behind the Hardcore LSS 200 is that current server rooms are anything but ideal, as they rely on large open spaces with cool air being blown in at floor level and vented out at ceiling level, not exactly and elegant solution and it’s hard to get the cool air to reach the servers in the racks. The Hardcore LSS 200 on the other hand means that there’s no need for the air conditioning and on top of that, the server can be packed much denser.
Why you ask? It’s because each blade is connected to what can only be described as a plumbing system for the mineral oil, where cool oil enters each of the blades in a rack and is then being circulated by a small pump inside the blade. The hot oil exits the blade and the oil from all of the blades are extracted out of the server room via a pipeline system and then cooled by an external cooling system outside of the building. In fact, the heat could actually be extracted and used to heat other parts of the building. Apparently there’s an 80 percent energy saving – in terms of cooling costs – and a 40 percent cost saving – again in terms of cooling cost – to use a system like this over a traditional air cooled server room.
There are of course some major drawbacks of this otherwise superior cooling solution, as for one it’s difficult to clean the components inside the blades, although as each blade is hot-swappable, this isn’t a concern for the customer. Then it’s the fact that each rack will be heavier than an air cooled rack thanks to the oil and extra plumbing needed, so current server rooms are often unsuitable for retrofitting for this type of cooling. Finally it’s quite a complex install due to the plumbing requirements for the coolant, again making this an unsuitable technology in many current installations.
However, for a new server room installation, especially in hot and humid countries where a lot more energy is required to cool down and potentially dehumidify the air; this is an excellent solution in the right circumstances. We should mention that the technology was developed by LiquidBlade and not Boston, but Boston has the competence to build installations based on the technology and the Hardcore LSS 200 is a custom solution from Boston based on LiquidBlade’s technology. Just on case our poor description of how it works wasn’t clear enough, have a look at the video and you’ll get a clearer idea of what the advantages of this technology are.