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BT Trials New Liquid Cooling Tech for UK Network Switches

Thursday, Sep 14th, 2023 (10:19 am) - Score 3,032
fibre networking connections

Telecoms and UK broadband giant BT Group has joined forces with Iceotope to conduct an “industry first” trial of “precision liquid cooled” network switches, which will be applied to their Juniper Network QFX Series switches. In theory, this could substantially improve their energy consumption and efficiency metrics.

Admittedly, anybody who works in IT or has experience building computers knows that liquid cooling of CPUs and other computer parts is nothing new. But it’s less common to see this in network switches, even though Iceotope has been plugging such technology since as far back as 2015, albeit often with companies other than Juniper.

NOTE: This trial forms part of BT’s commitment to become Net Zero by the end of March 2031 (i.e. remove as many carbon emissions as they produce).

At present it’s much more common to see network operators like BT deploy cooling systems using air-based solutions, but these do tend to use a fair bit of energy and BT predicts that the power needed to cool all their network kit will only increase with time (systems get more efficient over time too, but demand and capabilities also rise).

Liquid cooling is thus seen as one way to potentially tackle this issue and reduce costs in the process. BT is therefore exploring numerous alternative cooling techniques and in addition to its trial with Iceotope and Juniper, the company will trial the following liquid cooling systems, which are being demonstrated at their ‘Sustainability Festival’.

BT’s Liquid Cooling Trials

· Precision Liquid Cooled networking servers and data centre equipment, with Iceotope and Juniper

· Full immersion of networking servers in an immersion tank, with Immersion4

· Liquid-cooled cold plates of networking equipment in a cooling enclosure, with Nexalus

· Cooling using sprayed-on partial immersion of data centre equipment, with Airsys.

BT Group expects that several different cooling solutions could eventually be deployed, depending on specific location and operational requirements. The trials will aim to establish which solutions are optimal for each scenario, and the extent of potential energy savings.

Maria Cuevas, BT’s Networks Research Director, said:

“As the UK’s largest provider of fixed-line broadband and mobile services in the UK, it isn’t a surprise that over 90% of our overall energy consumption – and nearly 95% of our electricity – comes from our networks. In a world of advancing technology and growing data demands, it’s critical that we continue to innovate for energy efficiency solutions. Liquid cooling for network and IT infrastructure is one part of a much bigger jigsaw but is an area we’re very excited to explore with our technology partners.”

Typically, the new techniques are said to bring several benefits, including a 40-50% reduction in power needed to cool systems vs. air cooling, higher equipment density—saving on real estate footprint (and therefore further power usage reductions), and reduced material usage—reducing carbon footprint.

Further, rather than heat dissipated into the air, liquid cooling systems can channel exhausted heat to be reused to heat other parts of a building (in fairness, you can do that with air cooling too, but it’s not as effective and takes up more space). Liquid cooling enabling equipment can also be deployed in more environmentally challenging environments such as areas with more contaminants (i.e. dust, humidity).

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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5 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Philip Williams says:

    Bt at my house and EE on the move and I get the best network of all so sorry for the rest of your networks but bt and ee have had the best way to get all your networks in one place. Ee and bt . 10 out 10

    1. Avatar photo dazaMcc says:

      Change to EE broadband (same company) and you’ll get an extra 20gb of downloads on your phone.

    2. Avatar photo Tom says:

      Nice trolling.

  2. Avatar photo Bilal Habib says:

    Surely it makes maintenance much more difficult, I use liquid cooling in nearly all my computers and it’s a long process to do maintenance work.

    1. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      Certainly it’s more complex even when working, and when it fails coolant leaks don’t mix well with electronics. The “building heating” argument seems fatuous – if the switches are within the thermal envelope of the building then air or water cooling will be equal, and therin is the ultimate issue – “water cooling” is really air cooling with an intermediate heat vector.

      I’d imagine in the overwhelming majority of circumstances competently planned air cooling will be cheaper to buy and run, and more reliable. Fair enough if you’re overclocking a CPU, but that’s a verydifferent scenario.

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