Liebert, a division of Emerson Network Power, has spent the last several years studying the heat crisis in data centers and working to develop solutions internally that would help customers gain a foothold in the war of heat. But in the end, Liebert discovered that the best answer it could find belonged to Mountain View, Calif.-based IT cooling manufacturer Cooligy.
And in classic enterprise IT style, Columbus, Ohio-based Liebert figured that if you can't beat 'em, buy 'em. Which is exactly what it did in late October in acquiring Cooligy, which specializes in fluid-based, chip-level cooling technology.
Cooligy had been providing cooling for high-end PC workstations, but Liebert said it expects to work with Cooligy's existing staff and technology to develop chip cooling for the server space over the next two years.
Liebert, which provides power and environmental systems and services for data centers, had been seeking leading-edge microprocessor cooling technology for the past several years in response to customer concerns that server farms were becoming too hot to handle.
And while the initial focus was on cooling the racks and the servers themselves, Liebert began to notice that overheated chips were becoming a major problem.
"The heat density problem is going from too much heat in the rack to too much heat on the chip. It's going to be so intense that [vendors] won't be able to spread the heat with current technology," said Liebert vice president Steve Madara. "They can no longer make a server, rack them up and send them to market because in some cases the heat density is too high."
The Cooligy acquisition is an interesting play for Liebert, said Gordon Haff, an analyst with Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata. Haff thinks that by bringing Cooligy's talent and technology into the fold, Liebert acknowledges just how important cooling issues have become in the data center.
"This brings them closer to where a lot of the heat is coming from," Haff said. "[It's] an opportunity to inject themselves a bit deeper about how data center cooling is going to be handled instead of as a passive participant."
Madara likens Cooligy's approach to chip cooling to that of a car radiator. Pumped liquid flows through a closed loop that runs through a microchannel heat exchanger mounted on the chip, which absorbs the chip's heat and releases it into the air.
According to Liebert, Cooligy's closed-loop cooling technology provides the lowest thermal resistance and highest reliability solution for cooling advanced CPUs, application-specific integrated circuit (ASICS) chips, graphics chips and large programmable gate arrays.
Madara said the Cooligy acquisition is as much for down the road as it is for the immediate future. Despite the proliferation of more energy-efficient microprocessors, Madara believes that the industry isn't going to get a handle of its hot chips anytime soon unless it finds new ways to cool them down.
"We're going to continue to see problems. The heat levels are either holding steady or increasing," Madara said. "Even though they can improve the performance per watt, they'll continue to push the limits and get chips over the threshold where it will have to be cooled by some active cooling methods."
Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Luke Meredith, News Writer