Can liquid-cooled servers help your customers?

Liquid cooling can offer big advantages over air cooling. According to a new Supermicro solution guide, these benefits include up to 92% lower electricity costs for a server’s cooling infrastructure, and up to 51% lower electricity costs for an entire data center.

  • August 11, 2023 | Author: Peter Krass
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The previous thinking was that liquid cooling was only for supercomputers and high-end gaming PCs. No more.

Today, many large-scale cloud, HPC, analytics and AI servers combine CPUs and GPUs in a single enclosure, generating a lot of heat. Liquid cooling can carry away the heat that’s generated, often with less overall cost and more efficiently than air.

According to a new Supermicro solution guide, liquid’s advantages over air cooling include:

  • Up to 92% lower electricity costs for a server’s cooling infrastructure
  • Up to 51% lower electricity costs for the entire data center
  • Up to 55% less data center server noise

What’s more, the latest liquid cooling systems are turnkey solutions that support the highest GPU and CPU densities. They’re also fully validated and tested by Supermicro under demanding workloads that stress the server. And unlike some other components, they’re ready to ship to you and your customers quickly, often in mere weeks.

What are the liquid-cooling components?

Liquid cooling starts with a cooling distribution unit (CDU). It incorporates two modules: a pump that circulates the liquid coolant, and a power supply.

Liquid coolant travels from the CDU through flexible hoses to the cooling system’s next major component, the coolant distribution manifold (CDM). It’s a unit with distribution hoses to each of the servers.

There are 2 types of CDMs. A vertical manifold is placed on the rear of the rack, is directly connected via hoses to the CDU, and delivers coolant to another important component, the cold plates. The second type, a horizontal manifold, is placed on the front of the rack, between two servers; it’s used with systems that have inlet hoses on the front.

The cold plates, mentioned above, are placed on top of the CPUs and GPUs in place of their typical heat sinks. With coolant flowing through their channels, they keep these components cool.

Two valuable CDU features are offered by Supermicro. First, the company’s CDU has a cooling capacity of 100kW, which enables very high rack compute densities. Second, Supermicro’s CDU features a touchscreen for monitoring and controlling the rack operation via a web interface. It’s also integrated with the company’s Super Cloud Composer data-center management software.

What does it work on?

Supermicro offers several liquid-cooling configurations to support different numbers of servers in different size racks.

Among the Supermicro servers available for liquid cooling is the company’s GPU systems, which can combine up to eight Nvidia GPUs and AMD EPYC 9004 series CPUs. Direct-to-chip (D2C) coolers are mounted on each processor, then routed through the manifolds to the CDU. 

D2C cooling is also a feature of the Supermicro SuperBlade. This system supports up to 20 blade servers, which can be powered by the latest AMD EPYC CPUs in an 8U chassis. In addition, the Supermicro Liquid Cooling solution is ideal for high-end AI servers such as the company’s 8-GPU 8125GS-TNHR.

To manage it all, Supermicro also offers its SuperCloud Composer’s Liquid Cooling Consult Module (LCCM). This tool collects information on the physical assets and sensor data from the CDU, including pressure, humidity, and pump and valve status.

This data is presented in real time, enabling users to monitor the operating efficiency of their liquid-cooled racks. Users can also employ SuperCloud Composer to set up alerts, manage firmware updates, and more.

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