Microsoft sees the writing on the wall for the best computer fans and air cooling in general (via The Verge). Newer GPUs and CPUs demand more electric power and run hotter, leaving air cooling struggling to do its job effectively. That’s why Microsoft is experimenting with a type of cooling method called “two-phase immersion cooling,” wherein servers are submerged in a tank of special liquid that poses no threat to electronics.
Microsoft’s blog goes into greater detail on the process, but the general idea is this: the tank’s liquid carries heat from components up and away from them as it boils. The tank lid’s cooled condenser then causes the boiling water vapor to revert to a liquid and rain down onto the servers, creating a closed-loop system for cooling.
Christian Belady, the vice president of Microsoft’s datacenter advanced development group, told The Verge:
It’s essentially a bath tub. The rack will lie down inside that bath tub, and what you’ll see is boiling just like you’d see boiling in your pot. The boiling in your pot is at 100 degrees Celsius, and in this case it’s at 50 degrees Celsius.
Microsoft notes in its blog that it’s not the first entity to employ this particular cooling method: cryptocurrency miners have already been using immersion cooling for some time (how else would one keep an army of RTX 3060 Tis, otherwise known as one of the best crypto mining GPUs, from melting?). Still, the adoption of immersion cooling is a remarkable development for one of the world’s leaders in cloud services, especially since it’s a waterless technology that could help Microsoft toward its goal of replenishing more water than it gobbles up.
This isn’t the first time Microsoft’s taken liquid cooling in an unusual direction. In 2018, the company dropped a datacenter into the Scottish Sea to research underwater datacenter feasibility. Forget about the best CPU coolers; Microsoft knows that using one of the Atlantic Ocean’s seas is the only way to truly ensure acceptable hardware temperatures.
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