EBay liquid cools its data center!

Ebay has succeeded in going green as it is using water to cool down its data center. It’s a known fact that water transports heat 25 times more efficiently than air. But water and electronics do not mix in practical. However, data center engineers have learnt to use water’s cooling capacity in a controlled way to cool down servers without interfering in its work functions.

Now, in a proof-of-concept project six years in the making, eBay, Dell and Intel, say they’ve made major strides in channeling the potential of liquid cooling – enabling greater processing power at a fraction of normal power consumption and within smaller footprint – that could have implications for the hyper-scale and web services market.

EBay is world’s largest online marketplace and probably the oldest handling more than 1 billion transactions per day and nearly 95 million active users on a global note.

Going into the history, eBay made the decision to commit to water cooling in partnership with Dell and Intel a few of years ago. The highlight of the project is the anti-leakage technique called Triton used by the online retailer in its liquid cooling capabilities. Dell’s rack scale infrastructure for hyper scale implementations, combined with a customized 200W Intel Xeon processor E5 v4 which provides significant performance increase over the highest performing Intel Xeon processor on the market today is an add-on.

According to the latest available statistics, Triton uses 97 percent less cooling power and has a power usage effectiveness of 1.02 to 1.03.

With Triton, Dell becomes the world’s first vendor to offer data center cooling solution provider to bring facility water directly in each server sled to cool the CPU.

Austin Shelnutt, principal thermal engineer at Dell, divulged that bringing water into each server is referred to as a “direct contact model,” where the water is in as close proximity as possible without actually being immersed.

He added that the same water that pushes from the facility into the servers also passes through liquid air heating exchanger in the back of each chassis, allowing all the airborne heat in the server to be dissipated back into the liquid loop. The biggest advantage of this arrangement is that the need to have a secondary Tritonrear door heat exchanger on the rack to absorb all the heat gets eliminated.

Earlier, data center engineers had to apply cold plates to each of the individual components in the server. But now they can apply them only to the CPUs and the voltage regulators. The obtained warm water from this arrangement can be gushed out from the facility where it can either be dissipated by a facility cooling tower or repurposed to heat buildings or melt snow in parking areas.

“While air-cooled systems will remain predominant across the broad market; hyper scale and sub hyper scale sectors will increasingly embrace water”, said Mo Tahmasebi, CEO and President of DNF Corporation- a California based company offering data center infrastructure. He added that all these years, there was a hesitation to adopt liquid within data centers and to bring water to such a close proximity with servers- although benefits were well known, from a cooling capacity and cooling efficiency perspective.

Now, the standpoint has changed due to the vast amounts of benefits liquid cooling brings to server facilities. Thus, users are ready to mitigate the risk and accept the risk when they’re able to quantify the benefits from liquid cooling.


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