Collin Arocho
6 September

How can you realize the benefits of immersed computing? It’s easier than you think. With its simple three-step certification process, Asperitas has the knowledge, passion and a vast network to help engineer a customized immersion cooling system to fit your specific needs.

The secret is out. Climate change is here, and decisive action is needed immediately. As the globe tries to grapple with its effects, nearly every industry and many governments on the planet are scrambling for innovative solutions. While the new digital economy and innovations in technology play a leading role in finding and creating these solutions, even these have a glaring problem: power-hungry data centers, using enormous amounts of energy to cool the IT used to process, compute and store the troves of information. With a passion to help battle climate change and enhance the data center cooling domain, Dutch scale-up Asperitas and partners like Shell and Boston Limited are eager to address the problem and show how immersion cooling can change the game.

A small footprint, easy rollout, more densely packed IT and the potential for heat reuse – the list of benefits for immersion cooling is extensive, to say the least. But chief among them is probably the fact that Asperitas’ system is specially engineered to get rid of any energy-sucking motors and moving parts. Instead, its setup relies on natural convection and the laws of fluid dynamics to cool the IT – drastically slashing the amount of energy needed.

“We really specialize in working with the forces of nature – and I’m not just talking about the staff, though there are definitely a few forces of nature on the team,” jokes Andy Young, CTO of Asperitas. “I’m referring to the way we harness forces like gravity and buoyancy to motivate the flow of the cooling liquid. The engineering we do is really about trying to get the barriers out of the way so our customers can optimize and achieve the best performance. Some might say it’s an art form, but the way we approach it here, it’s definitely a science.”

To show OEMs, integrators, partners and interested customers just how to reap the benefits of immersion cooling, the data center cooling expert has developed a three-step certification process to test and validate various server setups, components and materials for immersion cooling, all the way from feasibility to long-term testing on location.

Compatibility

The process starts when Asperitas receives specifications from a customer, to know exactly what IT equipment needs to be inside. They then build a virtual prototype, known as a digital twin, to design a concept layout. This allows them to move the various IT components, like CPUs, GPUs and memory, around like a puzzle in the cassettes to ensure optimal flow and create a good thermal picture in the simulation. Because the system relies on gravity and the laws of thermofluidics, this often means placing higher power components near the bottom of the cassette where the temperatures are colder. As it heats, it starts to rise, naturally creating a circular flow to keep the IT cool.

One of the crucial parts of this first step lies within a materials compatibility test. Because the IT-filled cassettes are completely immersed in a specially engineered dielectric fluid, created exclusively by Shell, all of the components need to be inspected, tested and approved for immersion. Once validated, components are added into a database of accepted components, cutting time and making it easier to select them for future setups.

“The benefit of this technology is well-known, and material compatibility in immersion cooling solutions is one of the most foundational aspects for this application. It’s extremely complex, when we consider the hundreds of different components being immersed, each one made with multiple material compositions,” describes Eduardo de Azevedo, business development manager at Shell. “This disruptive and innovative technology provides a solution to customers that’s capable of high-power-density demands and efficiency, while at the same time decreasing the energy consumption, CO2 footprint and making the data center industry more sustainable as a whole. That’s why we look to partner with Asperitas and work with key industry players like the Open Compute Project to bring knowledge, confidence, awareness and an accelerated adoption of this technology by the industry.”

Asperitas module inside
Credit: Asperitas

Boot camp

After this deep dive into feasibility and simulation, the next step of the certification process is focused on physical prototyping. At this step, Asperitas’ team of engineers will build a model system and put the IT under a strenuous load in an immersed environment. “Basically, we put the whole system through boot camp,” explains Young. “We generate traffic on the interface cards and see how far we can push it before reaching critical temperatures.”

After completing this second step of certification, the project moves into the third phase of the process: proof-of-concept installation on location for the end-user. In this phase, the prototype system is installed at the site of the customer for duration testing under real-life conditions, where it will experience a lifetime of use, as well as maintenance processes to find out how the system and its components hold up over time.

“The real strength and purpose of the entire certification process is to give us a chance to collaborate with our customers and users. We like to work closely with them and join in the processes of decision-making to suit their specific needs,” explains Young. “It also gives them a chance to see their IT equipment embodied in our system and provides a pathway to validate designs and test, through simulations, to ensure not only functionality but optimization. This enables us to get a good feel for how the many choices we make in the design process can affect system performance.”

Asperitas 15 inch module top
Credit: Asperitas

Taking action

So, what does this certification process mean for Asperitas’ customers and how is it received? According to UK-based Boston Limited, which specializes in high-performance, mission-critical server and storage solutions, it’s extremely valuable. For this collaboration, Asperitas actively worked with Boston to create a cutting-edge immersion-cooled solution for their customer, data center service provider, Bytesnet.

“From advising on motherboard selection to networking topology, every aspect has unique nuances when using full-immersion cooling. The attention to detail that Asperitas has shown every step of the way has been very impressive. Together with the Boston engineers, we’re confident that all our bases have been covered, which will result in a very happy customer,” describes Dev Tyagi, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at Boston. “The certification process also clearly demonstrates that Asperitas stands by its invention and industry-standard computer systems and upholds those standards rigorously. This helps keep initial costs low for all customers in addition to the benefit they receive over time through Asperitas’ ongoing innovation. With this partnership between Boston and Asperitas, we’re truly pushing the data center world into the future of eco-friendly computing.”

“This is what we’re all about at Asperitas,” continues Young. “From top to bottom, as a company, we’re all about taking action and making things happen. And as an engineer, that’s what I’m passionate about, collaborating with customers to engineer meaningful solutions to help them realize improved efficiency and sustainability and greatly reducing CO2 emissions. At Asperitas, it really is that straightforward, and it’s what we love to do.”

This article was written in close collaboration with Asperitas.