Foresight: Intel announced a partnership with Green Revolution Cooling (GRC) to develop sustainable immersion cooling for data centers. The first fruits of their partnership are discoveries about the usefulness of immersion cooling, described in a recently published white paper.
According to two 2020 estimates, data centers consume between 1.5% and 2% of the world’s energy and could consume up to 13% within ten years. About half of this energy is used by the computers themselves and 25 to 40 percent is used by air conditioning, according to the US Department of Energy.
Some data centers have made strides in improving their cooling efficiency lately, but these have been negated by the increasing power consumption of new hardware. According to Statista, the average power utilization efficiency, or efficiency, of all major data centers has hovered around 1.6 for about a decade.
In their white paper, Intel and GRC claim that immersion cooling eliminates the need for server fans, which account for 10-15% of a server’s power consumption. Immersion cooling can also remove heat faster than air cooling, resulting in greater efficiency gains, but the paper did not quantify these.
Intel and GRC express the most interest in single-phase immersion cooling, as opposed to two-phase cooling. The first uses a pump to circulate a non-conductive liquid around a tank containing several servers and relies on a heat exchanger to cool the liquid. This is simpler than two-phase cooling, which involves the liquid boiling in a gas before being cooled in a liquid.
“Intel designs silicon with immersion cooling in mind, rethinking things like the heatsink.”
According to the white paper, immersion cooling also has other advantages over air cooling. Data centers collectively use billions of gallons of water each year for their cooling and power generation, which immersion cooling would significantly reduce. Immersion-cooled centers can also be built smaller than air-cooled centers, reducing land waste and construction costs.
It does, however, have its flaws. Having all your systems overwhelmed would be a maintenance nightmare and would also make errors worse. However, Intel seems quite ready to bet on it.
In May, the company announced it was building a $700 million research lab in Oregon focused on sustainability initiatives including immersion cooling, heat recovery and utilization efficiency. some water. It’s joined by other companies, including Microsoft, in experimenting with immersion cooling and other weird approaches to cooling as data centers get bigger and the need for durable solutions becomes more urgent.