Chinese technology giant Lenovo has revealed that it has been working with the University of Birmingham on a Water Cooling Technology (WCT) project for the institution’s data center.

Having taken nine months to develop from initial demonstration, the new design is projected to reduce energy spent on cooling by up to 83 percent when compared to purely relying on air cooling, while increasing efficiencies from an IT and facilities perspective by 20-25 percent.


Looking to upgrade its iDataPlex deployment that could only have two chassis per rack due to limited air cooling, the University of Birmingham commissioned Lenovo to see whether water cooling was a possibility.

Replacing the system fans with an internal and external manifold, Lenovo kit pumps water into the rear of the server and through direct attached heat-sinks on the CPUs, RAM and other on-board components. Water enters at around 45°C, leaving approximately 10°C warmer through heat transfer.

Lenovo says that the design allows for easy installation and removal of servers. Crucially, it also allows for six chassis per rack, saving space and energy. 

To deploy the project, Lenovo partnered with Mellanox and OCF, with plans to further roll out the system to the University’s central ‘BlueBear’ high-performance computing cloud service that is used for private research.

“We’re constantly experimenting with new technologies to improve the service we deliver to users. This project will allow us to manage 85 percent of the heat recovery from a single 30 kW rack leaving just 4.5kW of unrecovered heat in the data centre,” Simon Thompson, research computing specialist at the University, said.

He continued: “In addition, we are looking at adding a rear door heat exchanger to the system, which will capture this remaining heat and mean that we will need almost no air cooling for HPC research equipment. Although this has been a small deployment, we’ve been working with Lenovo and Mellanox to qualify new technology into the systems to meet our requirements.”

Guy England, DCG director for Lenovo UK & Ireland, added: “We work with businesses and universities across the globe to help them achieve operational efficiencies through IT. This project has been a true collaboration between The University of Birmingham, OCF, Mellanox and Lenovo – giving us the ability to deploy innovative water-cooling technologies which deliver significant operational cost savings to the University. Following the initial success of this unique project, we are currently in discussions to expand the solution and grow the University’s current data centre.”