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Friday | October 30, 2020
CoolIT Interview-hh0

CoolIT Interview-hh0

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Geoff Lyon


Driver Heaven: Hi Geoff, Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. Was “Coolit” your brain child? Can you give us a little background history on how the company was founded, what kickstarted the whole deal? Also can you tell our readers what a “normal” day in your working life involves?

Geoff: Actually the company was founded by Jason Myers, Brydon Gierl and Sandy Scott.  The story started when Sandy, an avid PC Gamer, had his NIC continually failing due to the heat generated by a particularly hot graphics card.  This is where the creative process began and Sandy came up with the unique and now patented approach of combining TEC’s and Liquid for an extreme liquid cooling system.  The story gets interesting here as Brydon and Sandy were actually playing in a band together and since Brydon was operating a metal fabrication shop at the time, Sandy came to Brydon with a box full of “stuff” together with a sketch.  While building this contraption he got some advice from his accountant/neighbour, Jason, about the business oportunity and possible market size for something like this.  Long story short – that took place in 2001 and CoolIT was founded and concentrated most efforts on R&D and intellectual property protection until 2005.  At that time, I was introduced to the team after exiting from my last start-up experience – Harmony Remote (that business was sold to Logitech).  I joined forces with the founders to build out the go-to-market plan for the retail version of the CoolIT Technology.  We debuted at the CES in January 2006 to an enthusiastic response which quickly led to CoolIT supplying thermal solutions to some of the biggest names in performance computing.

These days we are busier than ever, tackling the increasing burden of more and more heat in successive generations of PC’s with multiple video cards, multiple CPU’s and more.  A “normal day” usualy involves waking up in some hotel, immediately addressing the urgent required responses on the blackberry as soon as the blur clears from my eyes and the more involved stuff on the laptop.  Of course the next stuff is the usual meetings and conference calls to ensure our projects are on schedule and on budget and toss in the odd brainstorming session to innovatively solve some heat issue here or there.  An increasing amount of our attention at CoolIT is dedicated to bringing more efficiency into the cooling systems of the data center such that we may be able to contribute to saving both the environment and cost of energy.


Driver Heaven: How many staff do you have working for Coolit right now?

Geoff: I think we are about 23 full time employees in our Calgary headquarters plus about 30 folks at our China factory for manufacturing, assembly and QC.


Driver Heaven: How many people have you working in your research and development section? How do they come up with the cool ideas (no pun intended!)?

Geoff: Our core engineering team is 10 but the creativity for innovative solutions can come from anyone in the organization or potentially through collaboration with our partnerships.  Our internal philosophy is to solve our customer’s thermal issues using whatever means necessary.  The unique approach that CoolIT takes is to race as quickly from concept to prototype and test the performance prior to investing tons of energy in design optimization.  After getting a baseline, a more analytical process kicks off to capture formal requirements and design elements. The challenge to our design team is to balance fresh thinking and the wisdom of experience to ensure we pursue feasible product designs.


Driver Heaven: Can you talk us through your product development process? For example if Nvidia or ATI were to release a new graphics card tomorrow, how does your cooler for that card get to market? What is the average development time etc?

Geoff: Typically, we try to stay significantly ahead of the release schedule to begin a practice of having the design phase complete at the time the new cards get released to the public.  You’ll start to see that happening during 2008.  The typical design process is actually very dependant on the requirements (both mechanical and thermal) for the card so it’s difficult to generalize but a simplified description of the steps would be: requirement definition (thermal performance), mechanical design, prototype, mechanical fit and performance testing, production design, tooling, production, QC Testing, release.  


Driver Heaven: There was a significant amount of time between the launch of the Freezone Elite and the availability of 64 bit software for the unit. What was the reason for this, and do you see it being an issue with future CoolIT products?

Geoff: The software challenges are always a bit of an unknown.  Part of this particular issue is related to available support for firmware update functionality (bootloader) for our microcontroller.  Once that is validated, then we will work as quickly as possible to update the functionality for our customers.  Prior to that the we were working diligently with the folks at CoreTemp to develop the 64 bit compatible driver.  Unfortunately you are not always in control of every variable but we’re doing our best to be responsive.


Driver Heaven: Can you give us an update on the progress of the Skulltrail compatible Coolit product? Have Intel approved the unit, and did you have to make any changes between the original submission to them and any approval?

Geoff: The Skull trail systems we offer are being showcased by Intel at their promotional events all over the world and so far, the response has been excellent.  The interest varies from the desire to overclock to silent operation.  The systems are available now and are moving quickly.  I think the lead time on systems shipping is about a week.  


Driver Heaven: What has been CoolIT’s best selling product to date?

Geoff: Tough question – it depends on whether you count revenue or units or OEM or retail. In terms of retail product the Freezone sold extremely well but the Freezone Elite with ESA is selling as quickly as we make them and will likely overtake the original.  The Pure is an interesting product moving forward though – we attempted to listen to the market demand for a quiet solution at a reasonable price.  The challenge with that is that most of our audience is used to the overclocking appeal to liquid where the audience for the Pure is a little more broad and not necessarily focused only on the gaming applications and overclocking requirements.  That said, if the desire is to overclock with that product, all that needs to be done is to add an agressive 38mm deep 120mm fan and the performance is formidable.  I think the cost benefit of that simple little water cooler will prove to be a big part of our sales in the coming year.


Driver Heaven: What tends to sell better for you guys, CPU or GPU cooling units?

Geoff: CPU by far simply because ther GPU stuff we do is just getting started.  I think that the GPU roadmap for the coming year will motivate the performance computing enthusiasts to jump into liquid cooling sooner than later. (the overclocking potential looks to be increasing with the die shrinks that are being implemented LOL


Driver Heaven: Do you see future products being an evolution of the existing design, or does it look like CoolIT will be targeting new designs in future products? Any secret forthcoming plans would be great. LOL

Geoff: We are right in the middle of validating some revolutionary cooling science called [Name Removed By MIB].  The performance is absolutely astounding and will likely replace all previous attempts at high capacity, small form factor cooling [Warning -Disclosure of this Information may lead to intervention by MIB]. LOL


Driver Heaven: We recently saw a demonstration of the impressive Xigmatec AIO-S80DP. It is clearly very compact and quite a unique design. Do you think CoolIT would ever produce a compact cooler like this one? Or do you feel that it would impact cooling performance too much compared to larger units such as the PURE?

Geoff: The Xigmatec unit is a cool concept in liquid cooling but does not solve the problem of getting the heat out of the chassis.  The promise of liquid cooling can be used in many ways, none of which are off the table for CoolIT but we’ll want to be careful with each product release to take steps in the right direction.  Our vision is to provide full system level liquid cooling so that the single system could be cost effectively applied to all of the heat in the box and we’re moving closer toward that goal with each new product development cycle. 


Driver Heaven: Where do you see CoolIT being in five years? Still concentrating on coolers or would you like to expand into other PC components such as power supplies?

Geoff:  I think we’ll stick to thermal management, however we’re now in the process of applying our technology to the server room to potentially save 15 to 25% on energy costs.  There is much work to be done to create a truly efficient datacenter and advanced cooling controls are a big part of that process.  On the desktop side of things, I believe that liquid cooling will soon be in a position to become the new standard cooling method and that could very well happen in the next 5 years.


Driver Heaven: The Freezone Elite supports ESA, how did this collaboration with Nvidia come about? Do you think future products will retain this support or was it a one off?

Geoff: We actually demonstrated the Software control of our cooling system featuring Predictive cooling at the CES in 2007 and it got some traction with the market.  When Nvidia contacted us with the opportunity to participate in creating the new ESA functionality standard, we were in a great position to do so since we had just completed a similar implementation.  We intend to promote ESA functionality of a larger portion of our products moving forward and attempting to keep the functionality affordable. 


Driver Heaven: I take it you are an enthusiast just like us, what kind of system do you have at home? Do you game much?

Geoff:  With the activity at CoolIT at an all time high, my “spare time” is mostly committed to my family.  I just got the XPS730 H2C (at the office tho) but also have PS3, Wii and XBox.  When I had time I was into Need for Speed (PC), Halo, and now my kids are sucking me into Guitar Hero III and the Wii sports games.  It’s all fun as long as its cool. LOL


Driver Heaven: Finally, in one sentence can you sum up for our readers why they should Consider CoolIT when building their next system, or indeed upgrading.

Geoff:  I think the product philosophy of high quality, pre-plumbed, factory sealed, and maintenance free cooling solutions that our company stands behind can give the customer confidence in purchasing and installing CoolIT solutions.  We look forward to supporting the performance computing enthusiast both today and in the future. (OK, that was 2 sentences…)

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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