Energy-Saving Hybrid Immersion Liquid Cooling Technology Takes Data Centres To A Different Level

Recently, we had the privilege of speaking with Miroslaw Klaba, R&D Director of OVHcloud, who discussed the significance of data centre infrastructure and innovation in the pursuit of energy efficiency, comparison of water cooling to other techniques, the advantages of a hybrid approach in terms of power consumption or operational reliability, its use cases, and the role of Canada in OVHcloud’s green agenda.

Miroslaw Klaba is the R&D Director at OVHcloud. With a background in engineering, he joined OVHcloud as early as 2004. After earning an engineer degree from ICAM Lille, he joined OVHcloud in 2004, holding different positions on project development before taking the position of CIO from 2018. As part of his mission, Miroslaw leads teams encouraging transformation and participating in the maturity of businesses by providing tools and an information system to help increase effectiveness. Miroslaw is member of both the Audit Committee and the Strategic and ESG Committee.

Can you describe your role as an R&D Director at OVHcloud? 

I lead the research and development team at OVHcoud, overseeing the development of disrupting ideas, technologies, and projects, from their evaluation to their implementation. Participating in the innovation pipeline, I act as a catalyst and encourage overall transformation championing experimental ideas feeding our innovation roadmap, from design to production.

As the Global Data Centre Cooling market is anticipated to double within the next five years, what is the importance of data centre infrastructure and innovation in the pursuit of energy efficiency?

Innovation has always been the cornerstone of OVHcloud. It defines how we design our solutions, and how we build and operate our infrastructure. There is a very strong industrial DNA at OVHcloud which is rooted in a vertically integrated model. We design and assemble our own servers, build and operate our own data centres and deploy our own fibre-optic network. This gives us total control over the entire value chain, offering opportunities to enhance parts of the value chain, helping to reduce our costs, and incidentally our environmental impact.

An industrial approach to innovation has been the way we design and operate our data centres and the technologies powering them.  Our water cooling technology is the prime example of continuous innovation producing visible benefits from both an economic and environmental standpoint. Fatal heat remains a top concern with servers. While some data centres have decided to stick to the traditional air-cooling method, which produces more carbon emissions, others have opted for the free-cooling approach.

At OVHcloud, we are proud to have pioneered free cooling since 2003. This technology directly addressed a growing demand by companies for sustainable options to better manage data and keep costs controlled.

How efficient is water cooling compared to other techniques and how can we go further?

Watercooling is more efficient to dissipate heat than traditional air cooling. Our technology manages to dissipate up to 80 per cent of the heat of the servers, The remaining 20 per cent is collected from optimized air cooling techniques, allowing us to eliminate air conditioning from our data centres.

This unique approach helped us to set high standards in PUE/WUE indexes for our global data centres while lowering our overall carbon impact. To give you an idea, our PUE (power unit efficiency) helps to reduce energy consumption by 50 per cent compared to the industry average, and our WUE (water unit efficiency) is 10 times lower! This gives us a clear advantage over the competition, but we cannot stop there. With the volume and intensive processing requirements of data on the rise, we have no other choice but to keep innovating.

Energy-Saving Hybrid Immersion Liquid Cooling Technology Takes Data Centres To A Different Level

This step further has been materialized with a new hybrid and promising approach combining the best of both worlds: Water Cooling and Immersion Cooling. Immersion cooling consists of submerging electronic devices in a thermal (not electrical) conductive fluid. A hybrid approach has servers fitted in an independent book-shaped case where all the circuit is submerged in a dielectric fluid. The hottest parts, namely the CPU and GPU, benefit from a direct-to-chip water cooling system with an added serpentine convection coil fitted in the tank providing an additional surface for cooling. This hybrid design already benefits from 16 patents applications and offers clear advantages over existing immersion solutions available today on the market

How beneficial is this hybrid approach in terms of power consumption or operational reliability?

Ranging from increased compute power density to electricity or water savings, this new hybrid approach brings lots of advantages, with the promise of long-term sustainability and the ability to operate in regions of the world with harsh climatic conditions. Immersed high-power racks can now operate with data centre inlet temperatures of up to 45 °C. We can reduce the energy consumption of a server per year by at least 20%. We can handle up to 2 or 3 times higher density thanks to the scalable and stackable design.

From an operational standpoint, we noticed improved reliability, with a reduced failure rate of up to 60 per cent. We can also operate more smoothly and silently, with components no longer needed, such as some heat exchangers or fans leading to reducing CAPEX and optimizing OPEX.

In addition, each server benefits from a specific monitoring system of all environmental factors ensuring safe and secure operation at the server level.

Energy-Saving Hybrid Immersion Liquid Cooling Technology Takes Data Centres To A Different Level

What are the main use cases for Hybrid Immersion Liquid Cooling technology? Is this achieving the desired results?

Hybrid Immersion Liquid Cooling technology is of high interest for online gaming services, for example where all the rendering of the game is processed in the Cloud. This task is extremely compute-intensive and relies on both the CPU and GPU. With both parts continuously getting higher TDP, Hybrid Immersion Liquid Cooling allows for efficient cooling on top of safe operation. Banking use cases like grid computing scenarios can also benefit from the compute density provided but also from the unique ability to deploy Hybrid Immersion Liquid Cooled data centres at large. With a DC delta temperature of 20K corresponding to the difference between supplied and recovered water temperature, Hybrid Immersion Liquid Cooling definitely delivers on its promise.

What is Canada’s role in OVHcloud’s green agenda?

Canada was the first international site chosen to grow OVHcloud outside Europe. The country is home to both a large data centre benefiting from a unique power source and our second factory to support our industrial model. The Beauharnois, Quebec data centre is powered at 98 per cent with hydroelectricity being located near a hydroelectric dam providing a stable and renewable source of energy that contributes to an overall lower PUE. Next year we will open a new data centre in Ontario, supplied at 92 per cent by carbon-free energy.

Canada has been a fertile ground for us in the last 10 years allowing to further refine and develop our commitments towards sustainability. OVHcloud is targeting carbon neutrality with a contribution to Global Net-Zero by 2030 and the use of 100 per cent low-carbon energy by 2025 by promoting renewable energy and other low-carbon energy sources.

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