IBM Licenses Liquid-Cooling Device

Networking and wiring company Panduit signs on to offer the Rear Door Heat eXchanger as an option on its data center cabinets.

IBM is licensing its rack water-cooling system to a networking and electrical manufacturer, another step in its effort to expand the reach of IBMs CoolBlue product portfolio.

Panduit is licensing IBMs Rear Door Heat eXchanger for cabinets that hold many of its wiring and communications products.

The Tinley Park, Ill., company will offer the IBM product as an option on some of its products, according to Jack Tison, vice president of technology for Panduit.

The companies announced the deal Sept. 28. The device will be available as an option to Panduit products toward the end of the first quarter in 2007, Tison said.

IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., in June 2005 rolled out the heat exchanger, a 5-inch-thick door that attaches to the back of server racks.

The device uses chilled water already available to the air-conditioning units inside the data center.

Its a return to the past, as water cooling was commonplace with the massive IBM mainframes.

However, air cooling has become the predominant way to get rid of heat in the data center.

But as issues of power and cooling in the data center have come to the forefront, vendors are looking at alternatives, such as liquid cooling and wider use of DC power distribution.

Some industry analysts have argued that liquid cooling will find a role in the data center, but most likely as a niche technology suitable for particular situations, rather than in widespread use.

However, IBM officials argue that the benefits—that water is much more efficient as far as cooling, and that the Rear Door Heat eXchanger can save businesses $9,200 per rack per year—will make it attractive to a wide range of customers.

IBM says water can carry 3,500 times more heat than air, and that the heat exchanger can reduce server heat output by up to 55 percent.

Its also part of a trend to get the cooling devices closer to the equipment thats generating the heat, rather than relying on air conditioners positioned on the walls of the data centers to do all the cooling.

"Water is going to become the preferred method of cooling in the data center," said Jim Gargan, vice president and business line executive for IBMs System x.

"[The benefits of water cooling] are just so compelling that it will become mainstream."

IBM said Sept. 28 that global pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheims Canadian business used the Rear Door Heat eXchanger in its IBM System Cluster 1350 supercomputer and improved its heat dissipation in the data center by 55 percent.

Panduits Tison said he has heard some resistance from customers to the idea of bringing more water into the data center, and so close to the equipment, but that most people dont see it as a problem.

"Its certainly not new," he said.

Other OEMs, like Hewlett-Packard and Egenera, and vendors like Liebert and American Power Conversion, which build data center infrastructure equipment, also offer liquid-cooling devices.

Some, like ISRs SprayCool unit, offer technology that brings water inside the systems.

Other parts of IBMs CoolBlue portfolio includes PowerExecutive, a software tool that helps clients measure and control power use and heat emissions, and Thermal Diagnostics, which helps users pinpoint and automatically act on heat issues in the data center.


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