Microsoft has been testing out some really weird ways to make data centres more efficient when it comes to power consumption and the latest test sounds crazy at first.
The test involves immersing servers into a tank of liquid and then having the heat from the components of the server boil the liquid. This then leads to the liquid evaporating and condensing at the top of the tank where it cools down and is fed back into the tank. The dielectric fluid used boils at 50 degrees Celsius compared to water’s 100 degrees Celsius.
We warned you it sounded crazy at first glance, but there is method to Microsoft’s madness.
Air cooling isn’t all that efficient when it comes to lowering the temperature in a data centre. As processors and other components have become more power hungry this creates something of a problem where data centres can’t effectively cool servers down fast enough. This leads to downtime and increased maintenance.
So, taking cues from the cryptocurrency mining sector, Microsoft is using a cooling liquid from 3M to test if liquid immersion cooling would work in data centre and so far things look promising.
The firm reports that a two-phase immersion cooling solution reduced power consumption for any given service by five to 15 percent.
The first of these solutions was built with help from data centre IT system manufacturer Wiwynn and is currently running in Microsoft’s Quincy Data Center and the team doing the testing has already noted some benefits of using this cooling method.
“For instance, we know that with Teams when you get to 1 o’clock or 2 o’clock, there is a huge spike because people are joining meetings at the same time,” explains chief architect of Azure compute, Marcus Fontoura. “Immersion cooling gives us more flexibility to deal with these burst-y workloads”.
How well these servers and the cooling solution will fare over an extended period is an unknown right now but we don’t foresee there being mass failures during the testing. In fact, much like Project Natick, Microsoft anticipates the failure rate of immersed servers to be around one eighth of the failure rate of servers housed in a traditional data centre.
The firm says that it can also pack server racks closer together in the tanks. As you can see in the header image above, the servers are right on top of one another and this likely made possible due to the fact that air flow doesn’t have to be taken into consideration.
This could be incredibly valuable for things like autonomous vehicles where lower latency is absolutely vital. Being able to deploy a server rack below a cell tower closer to vehicles could be rather valuable in that instance.
Whether or not this project ever sees the light of day is an unknown but Microsoft’s weird ideas do seem to be working.
We do wonder what Microsoft will think up next. We’d say something weird like exposing a server to the ice cold temperatures of space to keep it cool but that’s a stretch too far in our opinion, even for a company leaving servers at the bottom of the ocean.
[Source – Microsoft]