Nvidia turns to liquid cooling to reduce power consumption of big technologies

Nvidia has announced its new plan to reduce the power consumption of data centers that process huge amounts of data or train AI models: liquid-cooled graphics cards. The company announced at Computex that it introduces a liquid-cooled version of its A100 computing card, and says it uses 30% less power than the air-cooled version. Nvidia is also committed to not being a one-piece, it already has more liquid-cooled server boards on its roadmap and suggests bringing the technology to other applications such than embedded systems that need to stay cool in enclosed spaces. Of course, Tesla’s recent recall for overheating chips shows how tricky it can beeven with liquid cooling.

Nvidia says reducing the energy needed to perform complex calculations could have a big impact – the company says data centers use more than one percent of the world’s electricity, and 40 percent of that is due on cooling. Reducing that by nearly a third would be a big deal, although it’s worth noting that graphics cards are only part of the equation; Processors, storage, and network equipment also consume power and also need to be cooled. Nvidia’s claim is that with liquid cooling, GPU-accelerated systems would be much more efficient than CPU-only servers on AI and other high-performance tasks.

Nvidia’s roadmap for liquid-cooled devices and cards.
Image: Nvidia

There’s a reason liquid cooling is popular in high-performance use cases, from supercomputers to custom gaming pc and same a little Phone(s): liquids absorb heat better than air, according to Asetek, a leading manufacturer of water cooling systems. And once you have a hot liquid, it’s relatively easy to transfer it somewhere else so it can cool, compared to trying to cool the air in an entire building or increase the airflow to the specific components of a board that evacuate all the heat.

Besides power efficiency, liquid-cooled boards have another advantage over their air-cooled counterparts – they take up much less space, meaning you can fit more in the same space.

Nvidia’s drive to reduce power consumption through liquid cooling comes at a time when many companies are considering the amount of power their servers use. While data centers are away from the only source of carbon dioxide emission and pollution for big tech, they’re a piece of the puzzle that can’t be ignored, and critics have noted that offset energy consumption through credits does not have as much impact as reducing consumption altogether. Companies like Microsoft have experimented completely submerge the servers in the liquid and even put entire data centers in the ocean in order to use less energy and the water.

Of course, these solutions are pretty exotic – while Nvidia’s kind of liquid cooling offering isn’t necessarily the norm for data centers, it’s not quite as far as putting your servers in the ocean ( although so far Microsoft’s experiments with this have been surprisingly successful). Nvidia explicitly markets its liquid-cooled GPUs as being for “mainstream” servers, rather than a cutting-edge solution.

This begs the question of whether we could see Nvidia trying to take liquid cooling even After consumer by integrating liquid cooling into the reference designs of its gaming-focused cards. The company doesn’t mention any such plans, saying only that it plans to “support liquid cooling in our high-performance data center GPUs” for the “foreseeable future.”

However, server technology trickles down to home PC technology all the time, and factory-straight gaming cards with an all-in-one liquid cooler aren’t something completely unheard of – AMD had some reference models that includes a liquid cooling loopand third parties have sold liquid-cooled Nvidia cards before. As Nvidia’s cards continue to consume more and more power (a stock 3090 Ti can draw up to 450 watts), I wouldn’t be surprised if Nvidia announces an RTX 5000 series card that comes with a liquid cooler.

As for Nvida’s data center-centric cards, the company says companies like ASRock, Asus, and Supermicro will be incorporating liquid-cooled cards into their servers “later this year,” and that pluggable A100 PCIe cards will arrive in the third quarter of this year. . A liquid-cooled PCIe version of its H100 card which has just been announced (which is the new generation version of the A100) is scheduled for “early 2023”.

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