Dell’s Direct Liquid Cooled Servers Scale with Intel Power

Rising demand for AI and HPC drives the need for liquid cooling in data centers, promising cost savings and sustainability.

This blog is co-authored by Emily Clark and Sandeep Ahuja.

In this three blog series, we explore Intel and Dell innovations in the data center on energy efficiency and cooling. Today’s blog explores direct liquid cooled (or direct to chip cooled) servers.

More demand is being placed on data center air cooling systems due to the increased power density of the rack. This density is the result of the need for additional compute performance driven by AI, high-performance computing (HPC) and other workloads and the subsequent chip design required to deliver that performance. It is expected that processor and accelerator power will only continue to grow from today’s 300W to 1000W and beyond. While the traditional air cooling widely used in data centers globally has evolved, there is a need for newer technologies, such as liquid cooling, to address increased cooling requirements. With liquid cooling technologies, data centers can also achieve cost savings and sustainability benefits.

Innovations from Intel and Dell Technologies provide energy efficient cooling solutions for today’s and tomorrow’s compute and data center needs.

New-to-4th Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors, including the Xeon Platinum 8480+ or the Xeon Platinum 8470N, have a full set of built-in accelerators that deliver performance and energy savings. These accelerators, continued in the latest 5th Gen Intel Xeon processors, cover a wide variety of workloads including AI, security and storage and enable up to 10x higher performance/watt. ¹

At a system level, Dell Technologies has collaborated with Intel to deliver dense, high-performance computing with liquid cooling for many years, starting with the 2019 launch of liquid-cooled C6420 servers with Intel Xeon SP processors. Inside of these servers, small heat exchangers, or cold plates, are mounted to the top of the processor. This technology is known as direct to chip, DTC, or direct liquid cooled, DLC. A mixture of water and propylene glycol is pumped directly to the cold plate where it whisks heat away into the fluid. The resulting warm fluid is pumped to a heat exchanger inside the coolant distribution unit (CDU), where it exchanges the heat with cooler facility water to cool the liquid back down. This is a closed system that continuously pumps liquid to the chips and back through the circuit to the heat exchanger; no water is lost or consumed in the process. The cold plates are used to cool the high-powered heavy hitters in the system, such as CPUs and GPUs, while air is used to the cool the rest of the components.

Over the subsequent years, Dell launched additional server platforms with direct to chip liquid cooling (DLC) as an option. With the latest generation, Dell has made 12 more server platforms DLC-ready. These platforms enable the use of innovative processors like the Intel Xeon 8470Q with 52 cores and on-board HBM memory.

One notable example is the DLC-cooled Dell PowerEdge XE9640. It ships with four powerful Intel Data Center GPU Max 1550 processors and is one of the most powerful platforms available for HPC and AI/ML applications today. Although these servers still use air to cool lower-powered components, liquid cooling with cold plates enabled Dell to pack four GPUs and two CPUs into a 2U form factor while cutting hundreds of watts of fan power that would otherwise be needed.

In addition to the water and energy savings as a sustainability benefit, liquid cooling opens up the possibility of heat reuse from the cooling system for other applications such as building heating, heating greenhouses and farms, and industrial manufacturing.

Dell Technologies and Intel enable no-compromise compute power with greater energy efficiency through liquid cooling. Learn more here.

1 Based on performance per watt gains of 1.46x to 10.6x with built-in accelerators on a range of AI, database, and networking workloads. See A19-A25, D1, D2, D5, N16 at claims: 5th Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors. Results may vary.

Tim Shedd

About the Author: Tim Shedd

Tim joined Dell Technologies in June of 2022 as an Engineering Technologist in the Office of the CTIO, working with others across the company to enable sustainable, efficient solutions for increasingly power-dense compute. Prior to this, he was Director of Research and Development at Motivair Corporation. Tim founded and ran a company, Ebullient, Inc., to cool electronics using dielectric liquids. He built a strong technical foundation in academia, first as a tenured Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, then as an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Director of the Graduate Program and Supervisor of the Entrepreneurship Program at Florida Polytechnic University. Tim is a Fellow of ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers).