Schneider Electric Explores Liquid Cooled Data Centers

June 25, 2021 by Alessandro Mascellino

As thermal management is increasingly becoming a concern for design engineers, Schneider Electric has announced a new liquid-cooled, modular data center prototype.

Dubbed EcoStruxure, the solution features chassis-level precision immersion cooling to enable high-performance processing as well as enhanced security features. In addition, EcoStruxure also features standardized configuration houses up to 60kW IT load with high-efficiency PUE 1.03, and simplified management capabilities via mobile devices

The EcoStruxure prototype. Image used courtesy of Schneider Electric.


Improving Thermal Management for Electronics 

Cooling electronics and efficient thermal management are both highly important to power engineers, as power often means heat. Schneider now aims to alleviate these worries through a partnership with both Avnet and Iceotope.

In fact, the new EcoStruxure data center prototype has been integrated by Avnet and contains chassis-level precision immersion cooling from Iceotope, a firm specializing in liquid cooling.

Thanks to this hardware, EcoStruxure is able to support CPU and GPU-intensive high-performance computing (HPC) edge applications with greater reliability in both harsh and remote environments.

According to Schneider, the new prefabricated module will be ideal for deployment in industrial manufacturing and automotive sites, as well as telco, military, mining, oil, and gas scenarios.


Chassis-level Precision Immersion Cooling

Despite its high efficiency, the EcoStruxure All-In-One module is also built to be sustainable. Initial tests have shown ultra-low-power usage effectiveness (PUE) of under 1.15, with a potential of down to 1.03 in certain applications.

For context, PUE refers to the relation between the total energy entering a data center and the energy used by the IT equipment housed inside. Consequently, an ideal PUE would be 1.0, meaning no power distribution losses and 100% efficiency. The average US data center, however, has a PUE of 2.5.

The Ku:l 2 sealed liquid-cooled chassis enclosure. Image used courtesy of Iceotope.
The Ku:l 2 sealed liquid-cooled chassis enclosure. Image used courtesy of Iceotope.

The EcoStruxure can achieve such low levels of PUE also thanks to its liquid cooling system, which reduces the requirement for air handling equipment (like fans) and simplifies the cooling infrastructure. 

This lowers infrastructure energy use, making more power available to the IT load, but also improves the reliability of the environment, reducing maintenance and service complexity through the exclusion of electro-mechanical devices.


Cooling Down Data Centers

Data centers can generate a lot of heat. That is to be expected, as vast amounts of data are processed constantly and by a large number of machines placed in close proximity with one another.

According to the 2017 Cisco Unified Computing System Site Planning Guide, the ideal temperature within data centers should range between 64.4°F [18°C] and 80.6°F [27°C]. There are various ways of cooling down data centers, but air cooling has been the most common one for decades. Of course, using large fans is not particularly sustainable.

As data centers host more and more servers, and computers become more powerful, air cooling also presents issues related to space. Why not place a server instead of a fan, and use water instead of air cooling?

Following this principle, many companies are turning to water cooling as a more sustainable and space-saving option. The obvious downside of this method is that, in order to be cooled using water, electronics must be sealed.

The Iceotope’s Ku:l 2 liquid-cooled chassis enclosures integrated within Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure allows all mission-critical IT equipment to be completely isolated from the environment, thus also making it impervious to dust, gases and humidity.