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December/January issue, Volume 2, Issue 1

Liquid cooling drives down costs and improves efficiency

My father used to joke that his fashion sense was trendy every 20 years. It wasn’t too long after I heard him make that comment that the grunge movement brought his flannel shirts and worn jeans back into the mainstream. Data center cooling might soon follow a similar pattern: As data center densities increase, liquid cooling is gaining currency as an efficient technique. It was in style during the 1970s with mainframes and during the 1980s in Cray supercomputers, and now it’s coming back in the form of specialized racks and direct liquid-cooled servers from IBM and others. Why the resurgence of liquid cooling? When it comes right down to it, air is a poor heat conductor. Much of the heat carried away from a server is actually transported by the water vapor in the air. That’s partially why the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) specifies minimum relative humidity and server operating temperatures. Furthermore, to cool effectively with air, you need to start with colder air, which ...

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