The route cooling CEO Helena Samodurova sees it, the IT world is going through two major crises: an energy crisis and a supply chain crisis. For IT teams, meeting new climate-friendly energy budgets is a challenge, especially when it comes to older computer hardware. At the same time, it is becoming more difficult to acquire improved, less power-hungry machines, both because of shipping backlogs and because hardware is quickly hitting efficiency limits.
Motivated to solve the twin crises – an ambitious goal, that’s for sure – Samodurova co-founded Incooling, which focuses on efficiency in data centers. Operating in the Startup Battlefield at Disrupt, Incooling designed a custom server with its own cooling system that is claimed to enable superior thermal management, enabling the server to achieve high efficiency standards.
“Our proprietary design and cooling allow us to unleash the full potential of current technologies, which would otherwise not be met due to heat and space constraints,” Samodurova told londonbusinessblog.com in a recent interview. “With our technology, we are able to increase performance on scalable and non-scalable tasks by accelerating existing hardware and saving … on energy consumption.”
Samodurova started developing Incooling’s technology in 2018 with Rudie Verweij, the company’s second co-founder. The two met at the High Tech Campus, a tech center and R&D ecosystem on the southern edge of the Dutch city of Eindhoven, during a hackathon.
After collaborating with CERN in Switzerland — Samodurova made use of connections there through her work at HighTechXL, an incubator that previously marketed CERN technologies — Samodurova and Verweij designed prototype server hardware. Their server uses a two-stage cooling system with coolants specifically designed for extreme heat and conditions, which Samodurova claims can achieve some of the fastest processor speeds of any server on the market.
Incooling’s secret sauce, if you will, is the aforementioned cooling design and control. Samodurova says the system can quickly respond to fluctuating heat loads and adapt to ensure the server’s processor stays within safe temperature ranges. “Because we are entering a new market – cooling and computing power – we don’t really have direct competition,” said Samodurova. “Cooling companies focus only on cooling and server manufacturers only on the end server, while taking the best of both worlds and combining it in the ultimate custom solution where each key component is specifically designed to perform at their designed maximum capacity and thus the end result above current market benchmarks.”
The mission of Incooling is certainly an important one. To be estimated that data centers consume about 3% of the global electricity supply and account for about 2% of total greenhouse gas emissions worldwide; cooling costs can total about $2 billion a year. While traditional data centers to consume less energy than before, the demand in front of calculate driving AI-powered applications and meeting the growing public cloud threatens to derail progress.
Samodurova didn’t dare to reveal much about how Incooling managed the efficiency improvements of its servers – it is still in its infancy for the company, which is in the process of raising capital. But she did say the cooling system uses phase-change cooling, a technique that could provide a more reliable way to cool electronics than conventional air conditioners and air compressors.
Phase change refrigeration uses the latent heat of vaporization of a refrigerant – the point at which it transitions from a liquid phase to a gas phase and vice versa. Liquid in a phase transition refrigeration system collects heat until it evaporates, after which it becomes less dense and moves to the cooler part of the system. There it dissipates the heat, and as it does, the gas turns back into a liquid and circulates back to the heat source.
Phase transition cooling offers several benefits, perhaps the most important of which is reduced energy consumption and thus cost. Unlike, for example, a fan, the system does not require a continuous supply of electricity to cool components. As an added benefit, as it contains no moving parts, it is less prone to mechanical failure.
It’s hardly a new technology. Phase-change cooling features in Xiaomi’s circa-2021 Mi 11 Ultra smartphone. And on the server front, Microsoft has: experimented with a two-stage cooling system on the banks of the Columbia River, using steel storage tanks to submerge servers and carry heat away from their processors.
Rival startups are experiment also with phase-change cooling for servers. Submer Immersion Cooling – with dare support – submerges servers in a special, contained liquid, allowing technicians to swap hardware components even while the system is operational. Meanwhile, ZutaCore’s processor cooling technology dissipates heat through a liquid contact.
But Samodurova claims that Incooling, which currently has a team of 12, is “constantly growing” as it prepares to mass-produce its server next year. She declined to answer questions about potential customers or expected revenues, but she claimed that one of Incooling’s prototypes has been running in a data center for over a year.
Also noteworthy, Incooling has a partnership with PC manufacturer Gigabyte to use the latter’s R161-series, G-series and H-series server platforms as a testbed for Incooling’s technology. In a preliminary, Incooling said it achieved up to 20 degrees Celsius lower processor core temperatures – leading to an up to 10% faster clock speed and 200 watts lower power consumption.
“The pandemic has shown how much we depend on technology and how important reliable connections are,” Samodurova said. “The pandemic allowed us to immediately demonstrate the added value of Incooling by bridging the gap between the demand for computers and the existing solutions.”