Deep within the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre in Munich, Germany sits the LRZ SuperMUC NG supercomputer.

The SuperMUC helps researchers in Europe tackle massive amounts of data, it can help predict natural disasters and its also less noisy than a typical office space.

This is thanks in part to Lenovo’s ThinkSystem SD650 servers which make up massive arrays within the computer.

While these servers do house some cooling fans, the majority of the cooling comes from warm-water cooling in the form of Lenovo’s Neptune solution.

“The old way was chilling the datacentre room by using fans to blow the hot air away. Hence all the noise. But air cooling is far from efficient for current and future HPC [high performance computing] solutions, and because they use increasingly dense arrays of hardware, it is even less workable,” explains technical leader for High Performance Computing at Lenovo in EMEA, Rick Koopman.

So what’s the new way then?

Anybody who is familiar with liquid cooling will recognise the solution.

Lenovo uses the idea of pumping warm water (45 – 50 degrees Celsius) through a system through pipes and plates so as to transfer heat from the components to the liquid.

Water has a higher heat capacity than air which means it’s more effective at getting rid of excess heat and keeping components running within parameters.

As a result, Lenovo says that its SD650’s are removing 90 percent more heat than they would if they were running on air cooling.

What’s more is that Lenovo is able to run the cooling away from the units. As you can see in the image above, water is circulated through a central source that feeds all of the servers.

Why not cold water though? Simply put, cooling water takes massive amounts of energy and while 45 – 50 degrees sounds hot to us squishy humans, when a super computer is drawing 3 000W, that temperature of water is “cold”, comparatively speaking.

By using warm water, Lenovo claims users will see a 10 percent saving in energy costs.

While liquid cooling is certainly not ground-breaking, this application as regards data centres is rather cool. With South Africa seeing more and more appetite for the cloud and more vendors eyeing local data centres, perhaps operators should consider warm water cooling above the noise of fans.