One of the problems companies face when handling massive computational loads is cooling. A company like Microsoft, with massive server banks within datacenters are constantly fighting against overheating. The company sees the end of the road for traditional air-cooling methods, such as fans. Instead, Microsoft is experimenting with liquid cooling by submerging servers in special tanks.
In a blog post, Microsoft explains how it uses a “two-hone immersion cooling” method by dipping servers into a liquid that does not damage electronics. The liquid carries heat away from components and then boils. By using a cooled condenser lid on top of the tank, the boiling water turns to vapor before changing back to liquid and being redistributed.
This is a closed look cooling system, according to Christian Belady, vice president of Microsoft datacenter advanced development. Speaking to The Verge, he explained how the system works:
“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.”
In its official blog, the company points out it is not the first company to explore this technology. For example, cryptocurrency minders have been using immersion cooling. Still, for a major leader with a massive cloud infrastructure, this is a first.
On a simpler level, the company has already explored the idea of cooling its servers by submersion. Microsoft is already dropping datacenters into the ocean to keep them cool.
Deep Sea Experiment
Microsoft's efforts to develop underwater datacenters was launched in 2014. In 2017, Project Natick was selected among the 190 finalists of the first World Changing Ideas Awards. By 2018, the project was ready and deployed underwater off the coast of Scotland's Orkney Islands.
Last year, Microsoft raised the datacenter capsule from the ocean and the results were positive. Microsoft says its prediction about the benefits of underwater datacenters have been upheld.
“The consistently cool subsurface seas also allow for energy-efficient data centre designs. For example, they can leverage heat-exchange plumbing such as that found on submarines,” the blog post said at the time.
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