Lenovo bets big on liquid cooling going mainstream, launches Neptune

Liquid cooling in the data center was usually reserved for supercomputing. Lenovo is betting that cooling techniques will go mainstream.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Liquid cooling in the data center has typically been reserved for high-performance computing, but Lenovo is making a bet -- via a set of technologies called Neptune -- that it'll go mainstream.

Neptune represents Lenovo's approach to liquid cooling and include a variety of approaches. The techniques include using Rear Door Heat Exchangers, Direct to Node liquid cooling as well as hybrid cooling that mixes air and liquid.

Scott Tease, executive director of Lenovo's HPC and AI units, said the company has worked on liquid cool systems for supercomputers for years and is now on its fourth generation of technologies. As TPUs, GPUs are added to increasingly dense and converged racks, it's getting harder to cool systems used for analytics and artificial intelligence. "Given the changes in processing and density it will become far more mainstream to use water cooling," said Tease.

Lenovo said it has been working on water cooled systems for more than five years and installed more than 24,000 liquid cooled nodes.

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According to Lenovo, Neptune can branch out beyond high performance computing so enterprises can cut their electric bills and energy consumption. Liquid cooling can be more efficient and reduce real estate requirements.

Lenovo is also making the argument that liquid cooling isn't expensive or difficult to implement. The company noted that in most cases, liquid cooling is less than 2 percent more expensive than air-cooled systems.

Liquid cooling may also be used on a broader scale because the fans used in systems are starting to take up as much power as the processing. "What's going to happen is that air cooling in today's form factors will have a difficult time keeping up," said Tease.

Here's a look at the challenges driving a potential move to water cooling.


Among the techniques, the most widely adopted approach today is Lenovo's Rear Door Heat Exchanger, basically a radiator for a system. This technology is an add-on to systems and deployed in about 30 percent of Lenovo's HPC customers.


Thermal Transfer Module will be largely invisible to the customer and built into systems.


The third technology -- Direct to Node Cooling -- brings in unchilled water and removes heat. This approach is reserved for more custom deployments, said Tease.


Another promising push for Lenovo is reusing heated exhaust water and chilling it to be used to cool another part of the data center. This Infrastructure Integration-Heat Reuse takes a waste product and uses it to cool, said Tease.

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