In the next few months, two webscale companies will make announcements about plans to immerse their servers in mineral oil and set them in special racks on production scale, which could help operators save on energy costs, according to a recent report from Quartz. Meanwhile, the company with the mineral oil and special racks, Green Revolution Cooling, is in talks with a number of other webscale companies about production-scale implementation, CEO Christiaan Best told me. The news is a sign that more commercial data center operators are getting over their fears of mixing servers and liquid.
Interest in liquid cooling — as opposed to standard air cooling — in applications other than high-performance computing has been slowly rising since Austin, Texas-based Green Revolution and another provider, Iceotope, came out of stealth mode in 2009, but Green Revolution in particular has seen a tidal wave of inquiries in the past nine months or so, Best said.
Google has shown interest; the company got a shout-out from Amazon Web Services Distinguished Engineer James Hamilton and Intel also liked the results of a year-long test of servers inside the Green Revolution gear. Since the Intel news, there were “a couple big people who started testing us, and those people have been talking,” Best said.
Enterprises are more risk-averse than webscale companies and don’t care as much about cost savings, but Best said he thinks wider enterprise adoption could be just three to five years away.
The question is whether more data center administrators will be able to wash their hands of concerns about removing fans from servers, bringing in specialty racks and — not to mention — splattering oil on themselves. GigaOM Research Analyst Pedro Hernandez pointed out these issues (subscription required) in late 2009.
But webscale companies can skip the process of modifying servers to fit liquid-cooled racks and just buy custom servers through legacy vendors or lesser known manufacturers with original-design roots that are emerging as direct sellers, such as Quanta. And with more webscale companies rolling up their sleeves, Best’s enterprise forecast isn’t so hard to believe.
This story was corrected at 4:25 p.m. PT to remove references to the need to seal hard drives when using the Green Revolution Cooling system.