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The cloud computing arm of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba Group is developing a data center cooling system that submerges server motherboards in liquid coolant to take advantage of liquid’s superior heat-transfer capabilities when compared to air.
The company said this week it expects this approach to increase power density and save space inside the data centers it is building around the world to expand market reach, as it competes with the likes of Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, who are continuing to build out their already massive global cloud data center networks. It expects the solution’s energy efficiency improvements to result in 20 percent lower data center operational costs.
Alibaba said it plans to contribute the technology to the Open Compute Project, an open source hardware and data center design effort started about six years ago by Facebook. The Chinese company officially joined OCP this week.
Its data center cooling technology has reached production stage, the company said, and will soon be ready for deployment in Alibaba’s cloud data centers.
The concept of submerging servers in dielectric fluid to improve data center cooling efficiency isn’t new. There are several companies selling solutions that use it on the market, the more prominent examples being Green Revolution Cooling and Iceotope.
Alibaba hasn’t revealed much detail about its particular solution, saying only that it “involves an immersed, liquid-cooling server solution that uses insulating coolant instead of traditional air-cooling equipment. The coolant absorbs the heat of the components before turning into gas, which is then liquefied back into the main cabinet for reuse.”
Because the technology doesn’t require massive air conditioning systems present in most of the world’s data centers, Alibaba’s immersion cooling technology “can be deployed anywhere, delivering space savings of up to 75 percent,” the company said.