Monday, 2 July 2012

IBM water cooled supercomputer innovation

Having worked on computer designs and other IT hardware design, I often despair at the lack of, or the lack of innovation in cooling devices. This may seem silly, but actually has a huge impact on how we use IT. For example, I have a few browsers open now, and the fan on my laptop is driving me up the wall, over the traffic outside or the buzz of my Monday morning to-do list in my head :)

It does not stop there, granted in most of western world is OK most of the time, but for the few (days/weeks) per year that we have a heat wave they just cannot cope, which for most of Africa, for example means a lot more of the time... and the rest of the time the cooling is overkill that is using necessary energy.
A bonded graphite heatsink using F1 technology and used in aircooled super computing

The extreme is data centres, they are growing in demand and are presently cooled by air conditioning, which is powered by generators and is already probably 50% (?) inefficient and generates huge amounts of waste heat and condensation, to then cool computers by air within cabinets which is grossly inefficient: to put this in context, its almost like sitting in your car with the air-con on full and wearing a woolly jumper and jacket just to keep your laptop cool on a summer's day... or instead, you could buy an aquarium pump that could work off of your mobile phone battery, and to be honest not even a radiator, a few litres of water would be enough... in winter you would need to leave the top of and evaporation would cool enough to run most PCs... even if you run a super-computed overclocked extreme gaming machine, with a small wall radiator like you find in small halls or guest rooms you would be well away as long as the volume of water was there.

Many of these centres even struggle using expensive formula one derived carbon graphite heatsinks... which I kind of like, O have one at home, quad core xeon size, and is perfect for cooling my porridge in the morning :)

So I was glad to hear about IBM building water cooled data centres and publicly showing what they have saved for the building they are in.

But what does it mean for the household that is all "clouded up"? well there will be a few, however, the other day I needed some old pictures of mine, so i went to my trusty NAS... after getting board of a gigabit connected LAN to one of the fastest wireless routers there is (netgear WNDR 3700) I started using a tablet, which for some perverse reason is faster than a top end laptop, but still it is slow... I eventually got a 4 year old laptop with a 500gb drive, copied over the folders I suspected having the content, went for a coffee and when I got back I sorted through them all in 5 mins... what does this mean for most? well, 500gb was good for copying the 100gb to 200gb of 6mp images I was sorting through... in two years time this will be 1tb of 15 to 40 mp images and a bunch of videos, and we will need desktops or some kind of servers again... only without the fans and the need for uptime all the time and not costing a fortune the rest of the year to overcool for those 2 weeks... 

How will you cool your super computer / server in the home of the future?