8 Common Questions About Direct to Chip Liquid Cooling

May 13 2020

Market Insight

Answers to Common Questions About Direct to Chip Liquid Cooling

It seems to be a difficult puzzle to solve: As data center rack densities and energy consumption continue to increase, Facility Managers and IT Managers need to find ways to decrease operating costs and downtime.

Actually, it’s not difficult at all – the solution is often direct to chip liquid cooling - more specifically, two-phase, waterless liquid cooling.

This method of removing heat from equipment can reduce cooling costs dramatically – a huge savings for any facility, considering that 40% of a typical data center’s power goes just to cooling. Not only that, it can transform the data center’s performance and efficiency by dramatically decreasing energy usage and increasing processing capacity, using a fraction of the space.

Here are some common questions and answers about this innovative approach to cooling.

How Does Direct to Chip Liquid Cooling Work?

It’s very simple, really: Direct to chip (sometimes called direct-on-chip) liquid cooling uses flexible tubes to bring safe, non-flammable dielectric fluid directly to the processing chip. The fluid absorbs the heat by turning into vapor, which then carries the heat out of the IT equipment. No water is used in the system, so the equipment is protected from corrosion and other water-related threats. 

Not all systems are the same, but in Rittal’s HPC Cooled-by-ZutaCore enclosures, the hybrid system removes heat from high flux devices using two-phase cooling, leaving the low flux devices to be cooled by air. This method removes the need for dedicated CRAC units and can keep servers at optimal operating temperatures using far less energy than air-cooled solutions. In single phase systems, the liquid stays in a liquid state, both when it’s cooling the equipment and when it’s carrying the heat away. With Rittal’s HPC Cooled-by-ZutaCore system, the dielectric liquid evaporates into a vapor in order to carry away the heat even more efficiently.

How does it compare to other types of liquid cooling?

Room air cooling pushes cold air into a large space, mixing with the ambient air to achieve the right temperature. In-row (sometimes called in-line) cooling brings cooled air closer to equipment enclosures, minimizing the mixing of air, thereby reducing fan energy. In-rack cooling brings the cooling directly into the racks, further shortening the air path and precisely controlling rack temperature. Direct to chip liquid cooling brings the cooling direct to the source of heat – the chip. There’s no more direct method for dissipating and removing heat.

Where is it Most Appropriate?

The unparalleled efficiency of direct to chip cooling makes it ideal for even the most demanding data centers, yet it can also be used for single Edge deployments equally well. Rittal's HPC Cooled-by-ZutaCore is available in two models: the Rear-Door-Air (RDA), which is best used to cool high-powered processors that present major challenges to typical air-conditioning systems, and the air-cooled In-Rack Edge that is easily incorporated into any rack, anywhere. These models require no plumbing or special environment outside of the rack, making them ideal for traditional air-cooled data centers that need to incorporate higher power density in servers and in racks.

What’s the Impact on Floor Space?

Because the cooling is contained within the enclosure, there’s no added floor space needed for deployment. Less floor space is required compared to traditional air cooling methods, since the need for CRAC/CRAH units is eliminated, and is even less than space-efficient  in-row cooling, where units are required between enclosures.

Is it Scalable?

Modular enclosures that feature direct to chip cooling make it simple to scale up as needs change.

What Infrastructure Changes Do I Need to Make?

No specific modifications to existing infrastructure are needed to add enclosures that feature direct-to-chip liquid cooling. 

Is This Type of System Easy to Maintain?

Yes. Cooling loops can be disengaged from a piece of equipment without affecting nearby equipment, so technicians can easily service as needed without having to power down the whole rack. And, there’s no risk of water spillage and the resulting damage, as the fluid is safe, non-flammable and dielectric. 

Can I Retrofit Existing Equipment to Use It? 

Yes. The system can easily be adapted to existing equipment.

Daniel Bizo, principal analyst at 451 Research, gives high marks to direct to chip liquid cooling, signaling an industry push toward this technology. “The mass adoption of direct liquid cooling in data centers becomes inevitable once we consider semiconductor trends, data center economics and sustainability goals in the 2020s. Air cooling alone won’t be able to meet all requirements in a future when mainstream server processors can generate more heat than an entire server a few years ago, yet cost pressure and expectations around environmental sustainability will only be higher. Data centers will need to keep up with new power-hungry chips at low cost and low energy overhead."

You can learn more about Rittal’s HPC Cooled-by-ZutaCore solutions by going to our website, or by reaching out to our team. If you’d like to learn more about how existing IT and infrastructure systems can be optimized for efficiency, download our High Performance Cooling Whitepaper.