Microsoft found that two-phase immersion cooling can reduce the power consumption of a server by as much as 15 percent. The company also anticipates that servers in the immersion tank could experience a reduced failure rate due to the lack of humidity and corrosive effects of oxygen in the air.
As computer hardware improves, air cooling is no longer the most efficient or best option for the data center. This is where Microsoft turns to liquid cooling with an interesting twist. While pouring water on computer hardware may be bad, Microsoft uses a specially engineered fluid from 3M, which is harmless to electronics and is “engineered to boil at 122 degrees Fahrenheit, 90 degrees lower than the boiling point of water.” This temperature, which is approximately 50C, allows the CPU’s heat to be transferred into the fluid, thus cooling the system.
At one of its data centers on the eastern bank of the Columbia River, Microsoft is testing a technique called two-phase immersion cooling. Inside a specially crafted steel holding tank is server hardware submerged in a non-conductive fluid from 3M that is engineered to boil at 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
When the hardware heats up, it prompts the fluid to boil. The rising vapor then comes in contact with a chilled condenser in the tank’s lid, causing the vapor to change back into a liquid and rain down into the tank, thus creating a closed-loop cooling system.
The cooling coils in the tank’s lid are connected to a separate system that transfers heat from the tank to an external cooler.
Microsoft plans to test the viability of the tech over the next several months. “This first step is about making people feel comfortable with the concept and showing we can run production workloads,” said Christian Belady, distinguished engineer and vice president of Microsoft’s data center advanced development group.