Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Iceotope Helps the 3m Buckley Innovation Centre Reduce Its Environmental Footprint

New HPC servers cut energy use and heat on-site radiators

5th November 2013 – Sheffield-based Iceotope, the liquid cooling IT specialist, has today announced the installation of its revolutionary High Performance Computing (HPC) servers at the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (3M BIC), a wholly owned subsidiary of the University of Huddersfield located close to the University campus. As well as requiring roughly half of the overall energy of traditional air cooled systems, these new liquid cooled servers are unique in that they have been looped into the building’s heating system and are actively heating the site via domestic radiators.

“You’d be forgiven for missing the new servers, since they’re virtually silent, but it’s quite remarkable to think what they’re doing,” said Dr Michael Wilson, Technology Director at the 3M BIC. “HPC is often isolated from everyday operations, tucked away in a little sound proof room, but that scenario is far from ideal. Working with Iceotope, we’ve been able to create a wonderfully harmonious working environment at the 3M BIC where HPC has pride of place. We’ve been able to locate powerful computing right next to our users, without detriment to their working procedures. I’m sure our tenants will get quite a kick knowing that the servers are even helping heat the building.”

HPC is of considerable importance to the UK economy and facilitates some of the most pioneering R&D projects in academia and industry. However, while HPC servers and facilities are vital components for any site such as this, they often require a substantial amount of power to run. The state-of-the-art 3M BIC, is no exception and supports the work of a growing number of SMEs and larger companies on site or associated with the centre. Iceotope’s innovative liquid cooled servers are helping the 3M BIC to expand its HPC operations and radically improve the environmental performance of these facilities. Operational since September 2013, the Iceotope servers support business-related activities across a range of fields including detailed mathematical modelling, molecular dynamics, mechanical engineering and physics, while also offering a hands-on demonstration of computational fluid dynamics to those with a potential use for the technique.

While off-the-shelf IT units were once considered suitable for Huddersfield’s research and teaching needs, growing demand and data usage prompted the search for new dedicated systems. Alongside the University of Huddersfield, 3M BIC launched a competitive tender process for such a solution. Iceotope was chosen from three different vendors for a number of reasons including:

·         Substantial environmental benefits – The Iceotope solution uses just 107W to cool 20KW of IT. 3M Novec Engineered Fluids work as the primary coolant with excellent heat transfer performance and exceptional environmental properties.  The fluid can also be reclaimed and reused (extending its life cycle), is non-ozone depleting and has a low global warming potential.  The water used as a secondary coolant in the cooling process can be drawn from ‘grey water’ sources such as rainwater or river water and can also be recycled and used in the central heating system (as demonstrated in the current set-up where the Iceotope servers are connected to domestic radiators).
·         Engineering innovation – To cool IT without traditional fans, Iceotope uses a non-flammable, dielectric liquid coolant which can be in direct contact with electronics, because it does not conduct electricity. Using Iceotope’s unique and patented design, the servers are encapsulated inside metal cases or Iceotope Modules that do not require an elaborate pump to move the dielectric coolant. Instead, the fluid harvests the heat from all components on the server by lively natural convection. All that is required to transport the heat away from the servers is a simple low energy pump and this process allows the Iceotope HPC servers to run with exceptional efficiency and to be located anywhere, regardless of temperature, humidity or air pollution.
·         Virtually silent operations – Traditional HPC servers can be very loud and often need to be located in custom-built facilities where users must wear ear protection. The Iceotope servers, however, are virtually silent in operation and those at the 3M BIC are actually installed inside a small lab filled with academics, researchers and students using the system on a daily basis for its computing power.
·         Low cost – Due to the low energy usage of the Iceotope solution, and it not requiring expensive ancillary data centre facilities such as computer room air conditioning (CRAC) units, humidity control systems or air purification, the Iceotope system is an affordable IT solution for universities, cutting CAPEX and OPEX in equal measure.
·         A hands-on demonstration of computational fluid dynamics – The way in which the Iceotope servers cool electronics allows students at the University to see a working demonstration of computational fluid dynamics. The Iceotope solution is designed symmetrically, allowing for access either side. The transparent cabinet doors show Iceotope’s various connectivity options in front and the highly convective liquid coolant flowing through the system and over the electronics in back. This is a valuable hands-on experience for students that cloud cannot deliver.

“The University of Huddersfield has a long standing reputation for forming successful collaborations between academia and industry,” said Dr Wilson. “Indeed, our work with Iceotope and 3M should be taken as a great case in point. The 3M BIC already houses a range of revolutionary technology on its Innovation Avenue, so it was only fitting that we would install an HPC system to match. Iceotope certainly fits the bill in that respect. Environmental performance was also a major factor when we were researching the HPC options available and we are extremely impressed with the kind of efficiency savings Iceotope’s systems have offered so far.”

“IT is an absolutely terrific generator of heat and a massive consumer of power,” explains Iceotope CEO, Peter Hopton. “Servers can get incredibly warm and at a certain point, everything begins to melt, break or fail. It’s this hardware failure that is the problem, not the heat as such. While most servers will desperately try to remove and dump the heat using spinning fans, at Iceotope, we endeavoured to create a solution that was able to re-use the waste heat while keeping the electronics cool. It always seemed a strange scenario to me, using fans to cool a computer in the same room in which you’ll have the heaters on full blast. Thankfully, the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre no longer has to work like this.”

“We’re thrilled to be working with the 3M BIC and the University of Huddersfield on this project. It’s a great demonstration of Iceotope’s technology, the Innovation Centre, and of course, the University itself.”