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Microsoft is bathing servers to keep them cool

Microsoft Server Bath
Microsoft Server Bath (Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft is working on ways to make server cooling more efficient and sustainable.
  • One method the company is using is called "two-phase immersion cooling."
  • It involves giving servers baths.

Microsoft sees the writing on the wall for the best computer fans and air cooling in general (via The Verge). 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 (opens in new tab) 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 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.

Robert Carnevale is the News Editor for Windows Central. He's a big fan of Kinect (it lives on in his heart), Sonic the Hedgehog, and the legendary intersection of those two titans, Sonic Free Riders. He is the author of Cold War 2395. Have a useful tip? Send it to robert.carnevale@futurenet.com.

3 Comments
  • Umm, "The tank lid's cooled condenser then causes the boiling water vapor to revert to a liquid and rain down onto the servers,". It's not water, so it is unlikely to be water vapor. Cray computers were cooled this way 30 some years ago. One of the 'tourist' attractions was the cryo 'waterfall' that was external to the computer itself. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cray-2
  • It's a mineral solution being used, I've seen them before.. also the statement that CPUs and GPUs are becoming hotter and demanding more energy isn't true. I run 1 GTX 1070 vs my prior 2x 670 SC, and the 1070 is more power efficient than 1 of those.. and generally speaking, as CPU tech gets smaller, cores are added, and clock speeds higher, they're relatively using same power.
  • They were talking about server chips I believe.