BT Group to chart the course with innovative liquid cooling trials

In alignment with its steadfast commitment to achieving carbon neutrality in its operations by March 2031, BT Group has unveiled its initiative to trial various cutting-edge ‘liquid cooling’ technologies. These innovations hold the potential to substantially enhance energy efficiency and minimise energy consumption across its extensive network and IT infrastructure.

In an industry-first approach, BT Group will initiate trials of ‘precision liquid-cooled’ network switches utilising a solution offered by Iceotope in conjunction with Juniper Network QFX Series switches, a widely recognised technology within existing network cloud architectures. Prior to the trial, the two entities jointly demonstrated a replication of the setup at BT’s Sustainability Festival, showcasing the remarkable reduction in power required for cooling a network switch typically deployed in data centres.

All electronic and electrical systems generate heat during operation that must be dissipated to maintain working capability. Like most large data centres, network and IT equipment across BT Group’s estate is currently cooled using air-based systems. As network capacity and demands increase, next generation IT and network hardware will have to work harder and will become hotter. Consequently, the power needed to cool them will increase, driving up energy consumption and operational cost.

Hence, BT Group is actively exploring various alternative cooling methodologies. In addition to its collaboration with Iceotope and Juniper, the company is set to trial several liquid cooling systems, all of which were also demonstrated at BT Group’s Sustainability Festival:

  • Precision Liquid Cooled networking servers and data centre equipment, in partnership with Iceotope and Juniper.
  • Complete immersion of networking servers within an immersion tank, facilitated by Immersion4.
  • Utilisation of liquid-cooled cold plates for networking equipment within a cooling enclosure, in collaboration with Nexalus.
  • Cooling achieved through sprayed-on partial immersion of data centre equipment, in conjunction with Airsys.

BT Group envisions that diverse cooling solutions may ultimately be deployed based on specific location and operational requisites. The trials are designed to determine the most optimal solutions for each scenario and quantify the potential energy savings achievable.

These innovative cooling techniques offer a host of benefits, including a remarkable 40-50% reduction in power required for cooling systems compared to traditional air cooling methods. Moreover, they enable higher equipment density, resulting in reduced real estate requirements and, consequently, further reductions in power usage. Additionally, these techniques lead to reduced material usage, thereby diminishing the carbon footprint.

Furthermore, instead of dissipating heat into the environment, liquid cooling systems can efficiently redirect exhausted heat for reuse in heating other areas of a building. Notably, liquid cooling technology can also be deployed in environmentally challenging settings, such as those with higher levels of contaminants such as dust and humidity.

Maria Cuevas, Networks Research Director, BT Group 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.”

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