Figure tomorrow – Swiss company Immersion4 aims to green data center operations.
As data takes up more space in our economy, the question of their energy consumption arises. The cooling required by servers can be energy-intensive. Many companies are therefore trying to do their part to make data centers less energy-intensive.
Devices exist, for example, to recover heat produced by data centers. This is the case in Orange, whose ZAC allows heating of data center housing in Beaujon, and even in Iliad, which provides heating for 150 social housing units for data centers in the 15th arrondissement of Paris. OVHCloud has trademarked “water cooling”, while Interxion has also started the race for energy efficiency. Other even more innovative technologies, such as DNA storage, may also revolutionize the world of data.
Referring to data center energy consumption, Serge Conesa also wanted to answer. He founded the company Immersion4, to develop a system that aims to cool servers by immersing them in an oil designed for this purpose, rather than cooling the entire room. A production plant opened in Annecy in 2020 and the company already has prestigious clients such as SNCF, Hewlett Packard Enterprises and the city of Las Vegas, as well as private investors such as Jacques Attali.
From air cooling to oil cooling
“When you want to chill a glass of champagne, do you chill the whole room or just the glass of champagne? Traditional data centers correspond to the first solution, Immersion4 to the second” depicts the founder figaro. Air is actually a very poor conductor of heat, and ice coolant—the oil in which servers are immersed—improves cooling energy efficiency.
Ice coolant is a dielectric oil – which does not conduct electricity – and is biodegradable. Its recipe, which keeps the server cool, is carefully kept secret. When heated by contact with the computer, the oil is circulated through a heat exchanger to be cooled and injected back into the tank. So it does not evaporate and is guaranteed for 25 years: nothing is lost, everything is transformed.
“We must give up air and water for humanity and ice coolant for electronics”.
Serge Conesa, Immersion4
According to a report published in November 2019 by the Agency for Ecological Transition (ADEME), digital technology accounts for 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Data centers alone would then be the source of 1% of global emissions. An analytical note by The Shift Project, published in March 2021, also estimated that digital’s share of global primary energy consumption could double in 10 years, reaching 9% if no active changes in energy policy are made.
However, data centers are making great efforts to reduce their environmental footprint. The French Unicorn OVH Cloud has thus created ecorooms where temperature control is done naturally, without air conditioning, by recycling the air. But as digital usage grows, these efforts may not be enough. Serge Konesa predicts that his device could help reduce global electricity consumption without emitting greenhouse gases or using water. The project is so simple:Leave air and water for humanity to give ice coolant to electronics“
Some necessary adaptations
Installing the device, however, requires a little adaptation. it needs”Remove the internal fans from the server, which are useless in water“, and “Ban servers with mechanical hard drivesThat’s because they’re not completely waterproof, explains the founder. The device is therefore not without limitations.
Deep tank can also be installed”Either on existing or new projectsand allows data centers to expand as needed. Finally, immersion cooling calls into question the existence of the data center:It is possible to host servers in any building without thermal limitationsSerge Conesa explains.
The solution also makes it possible to recover the heat emitted by the servers to heat buildings, as was done, notably by the Grenoble company Steamergy to heat the Butte aux Calais public swimming pool.
The system developed by Immersion4 may be particularly interesting for cryptocurrency mining. At a time when they are singled out for the power they use while processing data, immersion cooling can make their operation greener. For Serge Konesa, it is imperative to address this market before the data center.”A new era of manufacturing becomes the factoryIn terms of environmental impact.
A choice for performance (also)
Immersion cooling is environmentally friendly but no less efficient than air cooling. “A typical 500kW/h data center should cover 270m2. For a data center equipped with the Immersion4 system, this surface will be able to accommodate 4mWh of power, i.e. 8 times more.Nimjjan4 said. Immersion in ice coolant avoids problems related to dust and oxidation.
The project has already attracted several customers around the world. While the company refuses to disclose its turnover, it expects to impose its model. However, the immersion cooling market remains competitive with many start-ups taking an interest in it and developing alternative solutions. Microsoft has thus experimented with a boiling liquid cooling that cools servers by evaporation or even submersion of servers under the sea.