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Lenovo ‘Neptune’ cooling aims for God-like efficiency

Wed 20 Jun 2018


Lenovo has introduced a three-pronged approach to liquid cooling with ‘Neptune’, which it says can improve data centre efficiency by 50%.

Neptune, which the firm says is neither hardware nor software, but rather an ‘approach’ to liquid cooling, combines Direct to Node (DTN) warm water cooling, rear door heat exchangers, and a hybrid combination of air and liquid cooling.

Lenovo developed DTN cooling in 2012, where it installed the first water-cooled x86 cluster, in Germany. That reduced electrical consumption by 40%, and now the company’s ThinkSystem SD650 servers don’t have fans and don’t require water chillers, thanks to this warm water approach. This means customers can run processors up to 240W, compared to an upper limit of 165W with air-cooled systems.

The next ‘prong’ – the rear door heat exchanger (RDHX), is effectively a radiator, taking hot air out of the rear door of the rack and absorbing it, reducing the amount of hot air expelled into the hot aisle, reducing air conditioning costs.

The third element, hybrid cooling, will make use of Lenovo’s EAR software, which throttles CPU and memory, and will combine liquid and air cooling. This, Lenovo says, will let customers optimise depending on whether they’re focused on energy or performance. This part will be ready in the ‘near future.’

Lenovo – all hot air?

It’s the use of these three technologies which inspired the reference to the mythical God of the sea. Branding frivolities aside, the announcement represents Lenovo’s continued serious attempts to crack the data centre market, which has been one of its stronger divisions in recent quarters.

The company has been dealing with poor financial results until the last two quarters, where it has seen growth, especially in its data centre group. Last year, that division was up 8% compared to 2016/2017.

It wants to dominate the supercomputer market as well, noting that 87 of the ‘Green500’ list of energy efficient supercomputers are Lenovo systems. But the money is clearly in the data centre.

The product should appeal to those looking after ‘data centres where electricity consumption has become an escalating, budget-draining problem. Similarly, those whose data centre infrastructure was not built to support the increasing heat profile of air-cooled systems should look at Neptune,’ the company says.

The product appeals too, to the growing crowd of data centre operators looking to reduce their PUE, with Lenovo claiming that a DTN solution has a PUE of less than 1.1. It also hopes that with tech like Neptune, PUE will take an equal standing alongside considerations such as gigahertz or teraflops when choosing a server platform.

To read more about Lenovo’s data centre business, read our interview with Kim Stevenson, vice president and general manager of Lenovo data centre infrastructure.


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