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With SC14 almost behind us, I would like to share a few technical details of what we are currently up to, and how this will eventually lead to a true scalable and efficient Exascale immersion cooling platform for high performance computing (HPC).

500kW in a Single 19-Inch Rack

What if I told you we took the complete 500kW Immersion-2 facility, all 20 racks and 60 tanks of it, reduced and simplified the mechanical structure further, and put all of it into a single 500kW rack? What if I'd continue, mentioning we take six of them and install them into a 40' container data center that we can ship all over the world here inexpensive hydro electricity is available in abundance? That's where we are at today and we are by no means finished.

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I am glad you asked that.

As you should know by now, passive 2-phase immersion cooling is one of the most elegant ways to cool. Now compare that process using 3M Novec Engineered Fluids with their low boiling points (ie. 34C or 49C) with a simple mineral oil bath, which is thick and greasy (oil is a high viscosity fluid) and doesn’t boil. It performs better than air, but due to its physical limitations it will never get close to evaporative cooling (aka "phase change cooling", "2-phase cooling" or "multi phase cooling") we use in our systems with Novec fluids.

One of the great advantages of passive 2-phase immersion cooling is to reduce mechanical infrastructure, while oil actually adds new points of failures to the equation (see our more formal FAQ here). Our tanks are literally silent, dust free, and don't have any moving parts. We don't have pump stations next to our tanks, and no oil means we don't need secondary containment tanks around or under the tanks due to safety regulations. Did I mention that Novec is non-flammable and used as green fire extinguisher at really important data centers (stock exchange)? Or operating theaters, where you don't want a sprinkler system to go off during surgery?

If you have immersed a motherboard with CPU into an oil bath, you probably realized that without pumping and moving the oil, it doesn’t take very long for the CPU to overheat. While oil is somewhat better at transferring heat than air, it is unfortunately also incredibly good at storing it (that’s why you find oil in oil radiators).

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Since 2013 everyone and his dog knows about Bitcoin. And because one of our clients is the Bitcoin mining company ASICMiner, we've been hearing about it several times a day recently. In fact, we can't even think of any single working day without having a conversation or two about Bitcoin during the past year. We have also received calls from people at CNN and the New York Times because they thought we were the Bitcoin miners.

Here is a link to CNN's story: Inside Hong Kong's biggest Bitcoin mine

To set the record straight, we are (unfortunately) just the people who build the cooling system and provide the infrastructure, we do not produce the Bitcoins! We would probably have bought an island in the caribbean by now if we were in fact mining all those coins.

On a more serious note, NASDQ.com has a short list of famous companies that are now accepting Bitcoins: Overstock.com, Tigerdirect, Tesla, Virgin Galactic, PayPal, eBay, Wordpress, Reddit, Zynga, OkCupid and plenty of others are ready to take your coins.

Here is an infographic that explains how Bitcoins (and Bitcoin mining) works from a not-so-technical viewpoint.

 

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I must have received a few dozen emails this week asking for more tech details of Immersion-2. Here is a quick update while Kar-Wing is en route to SC13 in Denver.

Immersion-2 is an immersion cooling platform design for 3M™ Novec™ Engineered Fluids such as Novec 7000 and Novec 649. The system features a modular design in a 19-inch server rack form-factor, with various custom shapes and sizes available on request (think oversized bathtub).

Cooling Hundreds of Kilowatt with 1500 Watt

At this moment, our systems are nowhere near capacity and we are effectively cooling hundreds of kW with just a few thousand Watt.

The following is a snapshot of system stats while I am typing this post:

 Outdoor Temperature:   24.3°C
 Relative Humidity:  70%
 Water-In Temperature:  34.4°C
 Water-Out Temperature:  39.9°C
 Room Temperature:  28.5C
 Radiator Frequency:  12Hz
 Pump Frequency:  25Hz
 Radiator Power:  0.4kW
 Pump Power:  1.1kW

 Pump and radiator are running on German three-phase 400VAC motors, Hertz is the AC frequency.

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How do you build your next supercomputer without surrounding it with tons of hot plates, heatsinks, fans, air conditions or water pipes? Come join us at the 3M booth at SC13 in Denver and we will be extremely happy to show you how.

We'll also show you how to keep it cool with very little energy spent for cooling, and how your next supercomputer infrastructure might be the last one you have to build for a long time (immersion cooling tanks are universal, you can remove the old hardware and replace it with new one, without changing anything else).

Event Details

SC13
Colorado Convention Center
Denver, Colorado
Booth#3728
http://sc13.supercomputing.org

PS: You'll still need a water pipe or two with immersion cooling. We are working on clever ways to get rid of the piping too ;-)

 

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As you may have read in the news, the 41st semiannual TOP500 list of the world's most powerful supercomputers was announced a few days ago at the 2013 International Supercomputing Conference in Germany. Weighing in at a hefty 33.86 Petaflops on the Linpack benchmark, China's Tianhe-2 Supercomputer packs quite the computing punch, and now holds the title of "World's Most Powerful Supercomputer" - at least for the time being. It's more than 3,100,000 computing cores are made up of 16,000 nodes, each containing two Intel Xeon Ivy-Bridge processors and three Xeon Phi co-processors.

 

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With all the exciting things happening lately, I almost forgot to post this.

If you are into high performance computing or cloud gaming and GPUs, have a quick look at our Immersion Cooling Concept Design for 64 Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors and 8 HPC mainboards in the space of a suitcase. After the design was shown at the 3M booth at the HPCC-USA Supercomputer Conference in Rhode Island, we've been getting a couple of questions. Especially after AMD announced its Radeon Sky Series GPU for the cloud at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) last month, and NVIDIA showed off their GRID systems at the GPU Technology Conference (GTC), people started to connect the dots.

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By guest poster Phillip E. Tuma of the 3M Company

Use of passive 2-phase immersion for computing equipment is largely limited to IBM's exploration of the technology for cooling bipolar chips in the 1970s.  The liquid encapsulation module or LEM, for example, was a 10×10 array of 4.6×4.6mm chips immersed in C6F14 liquid that boiled on the bare silicon. A vulnerability of this technique is the phenomena of incipience overshoot, a large temperature excursion before the inception of boiling that can allow a chip to overheat or stress it mechanically during the sudden temperature drop that follows.  This issue was overcome by modifying the silicon surface with sandblasting followed by an aqueous KOH treatment.  It was also observed that fluid-borne contaminants could distill out of the fluid onto or under the chip.  Under-filling with beeswax kept contaminants away from the C-4 solder bump connections.

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We've been asked for a few real pictures of our immersion cooling systems. While our rack mountable projects are still confidential and we can't publish any photos, have a look at the gallery in the Building Immersion-1 page. And while we do indeed use glass for small immersion cooling demo setups, rest assured that our finished immersion cooling tanks don't look anything like fish tanks (you don't want a couple of Kilowatts in a glass tank, trust me).

Here are two more pictures of some of the prototypes we've built last year. As you can see, immersion cooling can be very simple, especially considering that each of these tanks can hold what normally would go into a couple of noisy 19" server racks.

 

 

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We've been working behind closed doors for a long time, but only recently we have been asked to come out and prepare a couple of presentations about the advantages and benefits of passive 2-phase immersion cooling, and why it is so elegant and efficient. One of them, a simple poster, will be used at the Supercomputing Conference (27th Annual HPCC Conference) in Rhode Island, USA, March 26-28th 2013.

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We've been spending all of last year around FPGA devices, but lately we spent a bit of time with Intel's Xeon Phi coprocessor. What took 9,298 CPUs and occupied 72 server racks in 1997 now fits on a tiny little chip the size of an iPod Nano.

This new chip, formerly called Knights Corner, delivers 1 teraflop of double precision floating point performance. And what's more, Intel promises we'll see accurate 28 days weather forecasts (!) within the decade, something we couldn't imagine just a week ago.

With a price tag of $2600, the Xeon Phi coprocessor is a HPC (high performance computing) product and not available for the every day gaming PC. While it was just released, it has already been installed in a couple of supercomputers around the world. Apparently Intel is also preparing to ship 100,000 units to China within 2013, where Tianhe-2, the world's fastest supercomputer aiming 100 petaflops, will be built.

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My colleague Alex wrote about winter in Hong Kong in an earlier blog post - and it's already over again. Temperatures have been on the rise from mild winter temperatures of 18°C for more than a month already, but today it came in the radio that we're at 28° Celsius (82.4° Fahrenheit) and a whopping 95% relative humidity. This compared to the snow chaos in Europe with airports shutting down just a few days ago in the middle of March... Guess it's quite obvious why we moved to Hong Kong - I was at the beach yesterday, basking in the sun!

Maybe one should draft up a new PUE (Power Usage Efficiency) metric for data centers and supercomputers which is relative to the annual temperature and humidity average of the respective location - just like "relative humidity" in relation to temperature. It's no surprise that Hong Kong's average PUE is at 2.52 according to Digital Realty's 2012 survey on 101 major data centers in Hong Kong. I wonder what lower PUE than the current 1.02 Immersion-1 would achieve with such a new "relative PUE" metric...

 

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If you look around a typical Hong Kong office during the winter season you'll often find people in down-feather jackets sitting around old-style (and energy hungry) blow heaters and electrical oil radiators (2000W units are very popular in HK).

This winter however, our office was nice and cosy and T-shirts were the norm. With 70kW heat dissipated next door, and a few tanks strategically placed in the corner of the office, we've had free heating all winter long. It's a very energy efficient way to heat the room.

The dissipated heat from immersion cooling systems is very easy to capture. It is a no-brainer to connect to an existing central heating system or make it part of the design process for a new building design or renovation.

There are no hot water radiators in Hong Kong (and no central heating system as far as I am aware), but if we have the chance we'll definitely get some radiators for the upcoming cold seasons. We could probably heat the whole building with our tiny cluster!

As always, if you have a question on your mind, feel free to get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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Instead of using a proprietary PLC controller (such as the AB Micrologix), there is an alternative and much easier way to talk to your Allen-Bradley PowerFlex AC drives. Rockwell Automation offers a number of interface modules, but it's easy to get confused (20-COMM-E works with 700 but not with the 400 family) and they are often not exactly available at your neighbourhood electronics store.

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Welcome to our blog. You'll see updates to this section soon. About immersion cooling, other technical things, and the environment.

 

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 Our Address:
Global Trade Centre
Units 305-307, 3/F
15 Wing Kin Road 
Kwai Chung, N.T.
Hong Kong

Contact Us:
Phone +852 3145 0055
Fax +852 3010 0802

Email Us
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German or Chinese.

Global Projects

Hong Kong is one of the fastest-paced cities in the world. It has remained the world's freest economy since 1995, with low tax, no import and export restrictions, free trade and travel. Being located in the financial powerhouse and tech hub of Asia, we are well equipped to work on global projects. No matter how big, or small.

Hot & Humid

Most would consider Hong Kong's cramped living conditions, sky high property prices, and hazy skies as very challenging. When it comes to data centers, hot and humid climates are one of the biggest problems too. Hong Kong's power hungry infrastructure is a major disaster for the people's wallet and the environment. On the bright side, it's habitats like this that push companies to go the extra mile and make a change.