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02nd Sep 2022

Could liquid immersion cooling be the answer to data centres sustainability? – A GRC event

Jessica Farrow

As the conversation around sustainability rises, data industry experts are looking toward greener and more efficient ways of running the world’s data centers. As part of Data Center Liquid Immersion Cooling Awareness Month, GRC  (Green Revolution Cooling) empaneled a range of experts to address the question of data center sustainability from a wide breadth of perspectives. With Gregg Primm, Vice President, Marketing at Green Revolution Cooling leading the panel, it was set to be a groundbreaking discussion.

Panel attendees

– Moderator: Gregg Primm Vice President, Marketing at the GRC
– Ben Smith, Chief Product Officer at the GRC
Cosimo Pecchioli, Data Centre Heat Management specialist at Alfa Laval
– Jessica Farrow, Group Head of Content and PR at the Halston Group
– Jonathan Evans, Director of Total Data Centre Solutions

Ben Smith – Chief Product Officer, GRC

After the obligatory introductions to the wonderful and highly commemorated team, Ben Smith kicked off the conversation with an overview of the sustainable benefits of liquid immersion cooling. Ben’s role within GRC is Chief Product Officer and he knows his stuff. He argues that when looking at data centers it is essential to look at your sustainability in order to separate yourself within a highly competitive market, with 87% of experts arguing that the need for differentiation is essential. As data centers demand more power due to an increased need from applications, they start to push the envelope on the operating temperature and density allowed within a rack. Long story short, many centers are quickly approaching the data capacity limit for fast-moving air, causing many to look for sustainable alternatives.

His solution – liquid immersion cooling.

Liquid immersion cooling

But before we continue let’s answer the big question, what is liquid immersion cooling? 
Liquid Immersion cooling is a thermal management technique often used in IT where electronic devices are submerged in a thermally conductive liquid. This liquid removes heat from the devices that can then be released into the outer environment or harvested for further use. Currently, many data centers use air to cool down their electronics, however, due to the method’s high energy needs and increases in data bank size/ complexity, this method is quickly becoming ineffective and unsustainable.

The Benefits of Liquid Immersion Cooling 

According to Ben Smith, despite the basics being pretty simple”, liquid immersion cooling presents an amazing answer to the data world’s energy problem. In comparison to its gas counterparts, Liquid Immersion Cooling can take away more heat from devices due to their submerged nature as well as being cheaper to run as the water can be higher in temperature. Ben Smith said 

“You can run these (liquid heat immersion) systems with much much warmer water than is historically needed for air by a significant factor… it has a compelling impact on your CAPEX operating cost and efficiency.”

On top of all that good stuff, Ben also pointed to the chance for “heat opportunity” for centers switching over to liquid immersion cooling. Here, centers are able to use the excess heat for other projects, furthering its life cycle and reducing waste. Jonathan Evans, Director at Total Data Centre Solutions, anecdotally added to this point by explaining how a plant in Sweden uses its excess heat to warm the local town in the winter and as energy in its wood pellet factory in the summer. Creating a circular model around decarbonising data centres


Jessica Farrow, Group Head of Content and PR at Halston Group, took the first lead in the discussion, bringing to the surface the issue of a lack of consumer knowledge on data management and the need for experts to make sustainable decisions in order to improve levels of transparency. She said:

“Some of those people [consumers] are aware that data centres have a carbon footprint but they don’t know where that footprint comes from, they don’t know that it necessarily comes from the cooling process. I think more awareness of how they can actually improve on their side would be beneficial and I think there’s a lot that can be done directly in the data centres to help companies that outsource their data storage to  be more sustainable.”

This was then followed by a discussion of one of the data industries’ biggest hurdles: location. 

Members of the panel outlined the hardships for data centers located in hotter climates where water sources are scarce, especially for those not currently using liquid immersion cooling. Location was determined to be an important component in sustainable data center construction as we move forward into the green age. Cosmo Pecchioli said: 

“Of course, location plays a part especially when you are in a colder climate as you have much more opportunities to have a less impactful solution, but unfortunately not all data centres have the opportunity to be in colder climates… that being said it’s certain that liquid cooling of any sort is a step in the right direction of data cooling.”

Jessica Farrow expanded on this issue by highlighting the need for better international water conservation as many countries continue to use liquid immersion’s less sustainable competitors. She said:

“There is not an unlimited supply of water and we are fortunate to be from countries that are very used to having multiple water sources. Whilst water may not be used in data centre cooling here in the UK, it is still important to promote better practices globally and companies being very aware when they are outsourcing data on their full impact.”

Jonathan Evans rounded off the discussion by pointing out the ease with which data centres can switch to liquid immersion cooling, therefore reducing their water waste and becoming more energy efficient. He said: 

“If you turn a data centre over to an immersion cooling you don’t have to scrap the whole centre, it can be changed while giving you higher efficiency per kilowatt”

Closing statements

During the end discussion, very real concerns were brought up as panelists discussed the barriers to the transition from air cooling to liquid cooling, in particular industry mindset. In an industry where risk aversion is the goal, it’s difficult to convince stakeholders to invest in new technologies such as liquid immersion cooling even when they are aware of its plethora of benefits. Ben Smith stated a need for calm and informative conversations when discussing the future of sustainability within data centers in order to promote dialog within the boardroom and create large-scale change.

So should you make the switch? The answer is up to you. Location, resources, and your commitment to our planet are all factors in this decision, but with data centers increasing in size exponentially as the world continues to rely on stored data and cloud-based applications, it’s clear a decision must be made. And with consumers largely unaware of where their data is processed/ stored it is up to those in the industry to make these decisions.