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A Completely Submerged "Chilled Server!?"–A Novel Idea Good for Both the Global Environment and the ICT Society (Part 2)

[The Power to Create the Future Vol. 13] Takashi Yamamoto, Leader of the Liquid Immersion Cooling System R&D Project

Main visual : A Completely Submerged "Chilled Server!?"–A Novel Idea Good for Both the Global Environment and the ICT Society (Part 2)

(Continued from the interview in Part 1.)

Extreme weather events are reported all over the world. The need for technologies to help prevent global warming continues to rise. The liquid immersion cooling system developed by Yamamoto’s team reduces the entire server system’s power consumption by nearly 40% compared to those with conventional air cooling systems. Because it can easily demonstrate effects even in severe environments, people worldwide are paying close attention to the system.

After iterating through the trial and error process, how did the innovation achieve such success?

Maturing the Process with Customers Instead of Shutting Ourselves in Our Lab

Yamamoto: "Nearly 20 members of our lab are involved in the liquid immersion cooling system. With these members, in addition to a team that drives technology development and design, we created a team that makes a business out of such efforts.
Accompanied by sales representatives, the business development team visits customers to introduce the system, listen to their requirements, and in some cases request that they actually use it and provide feedback.
Meanwhile, I asked the technology team to attempt to acquire new skills and know-how in order to achieve customers’ requirements.

If we are the only ones who do evaluation, it will become self-centered. Efforts must be made to mature the process with external customers and partners without shutting ourselves away in our teams. While talking with external customers and partners many times and listening to their comments, we gained many insights."

Repeating the Process of Accepting Obstacles with a Positive Mind and Seeking Solutions

"We created the business development team partly in pursuit of another mission—making a product that sells well, not just making a product. Normally, we almost always leave product sales up to the sales promotion division and salespeople. However, this system is a totally new technology, and we did not believe it would work well to simply ask them to sell a product that we just launched."

You can put a general-purpose server that you used to air cool "as is" into the liquid bath.

You mentioned "repeated trial and error," but how did you react when an error actually occurred?

Yamamoto: "When faced with such an event, coming up with ideas is in some sense when we engineers feel blessed to be engineers. If we panic and are overly anxious each time we face such a problem, nothing can be done. When a problem occurs, we are immediately motivated by the desire to resolve it by any means.

If you start a new project, you will always encounter obstacles. I think what is important is to repeatedly carry out the process of accepting such obstacles with a positive mind and thinking about how to resolve them together. I think this is largely due to my experience because I have faced many obstacles in my nearly 30 years of experience in development. But, maybe it is just my nature that makes me believe 'it will work out somehow' (laughs)."

Wishing to Help Reduce Environmental Burdens

"Fujitsu is, first of all, a company that highly values technology and has a culture of encouraging employees not to hesitate in developing technologies. I believe that my having had so many experiences in such an environment would only have been possible with Fujitsu.

In the future, I wish to help reduce CO2 emissions and environmental burdens by encouraging many customers to introduce this liquid immersion cooling system. After our official announcement of the system’s launch last year, we have received inquiries from around the world and the system installation business is now underway.

Still, the liquid immersion cooling system cannot resolve every problem. In order to convince even more customers to use the system, we will keep up our commitment to research and development while addressing issues."

A Technical College in India Adopts the System, Which Easily Demonstrate Its Effects Even in Severe Environments

"In August 2018, our liquid immersion cooling system was installed in a technical Institute located in Delhi, the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT). In India today, momentum is greatly increasing to inject enthusiasm into technological research by introducing supercomputers, and to this end we have received various inquiries. Since the system easily demonstrates its effects when used in severe environments, such as India’s climate and other environmental conditions, it has been well received there."

Immersion Cooling Applicable to Processors for Automated Driving

"Because the server itself is completely submerged in liquid, it will never be affected by the surrounding air environment, no matter how contaminated said air is. From this viewpoint, I think application of liquid immersion cooling technology can be extended to many other areas beyond servers.

For example, it can be applied to vehicles. Automated driving requires unprecedentedly high-speed processors, producing high temperatures as well as large vibrations under the hood. Use of this technology offers many advantages, and in fact we have received inquiries about this."

Further Deployment of the Technology Will Pave the Way to the Future

"I still do not realize that I have created the future. I believe the path to the future will eventually be paved as the technology deployment I just described advances. Therefore, I hope I can introduce and propose applications of this technology to areas beyond servers as well.

To determine whether or not innovation has been achieved is something like an afterthought. Thus, I believe that being motivated and having awareness to always produce a result is important once you start something. As I could share this ideal with my colleagues, we successfully completed the process through to commercialization.

I myself am determined to continue to work to make liquid immersion into a successful business."

Staying Motivated to Take Up New Challenges

"I hope that people in companies, especially young people, work on development while thinking about what should be done to sell products or obtain customers’ support. When developing a large product in a large organization, tasks are shared by many people, which tends to make it difficult to see the big picture. Thus, I suggest making proactive efforts to obtain information in order to learn the product’s current development status and positioning.

If you have the spirit of independently pushing ahead come what may, I believe you will be able to overcome obstacles in many situations. I suggest staying motivated to take up new challenges without becoming dependent on your company. I believe this is the most important thing, and expectations will center around such motivated people."

Takashi Yamamoto

General Manager
Electric & Mechanical Engineering Development Divison
AI Platform Business Unit
Fujitsu Limited

After graduating from the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the Faculty of Engineering at Tokyo University of Science in 1989, Yamamoto joined Fujitsu Limited that same year and was assigned to the business division (Information System Business Division). Since then, Yamamoto has been involved in the development of cooling technologies and mechanical technologies for large-scale computer and storage products.