Microsoft put a data center on the bottom of the ocean, and it appeared to be a successful experiment, but now they’ve brought the water to the servers. Rather than sink a data center, which means cumbersome maintenance if there are issues, Microsoft is just sinking server boards.
Their latest experiment takes liquid cooling in a new direction. In a vat of fluid, they have dozens of servers submerged. The liquid has a low boiling point and turns into a gas when contacting a CPU. The gas circulates like a miniature water cycle, condensing back into liquid when hitting a cool lid.
I’ve always assumed all liquid would be bad on an electrical server board, but I guess this isn’t the case. I’ve heard of liquid cooling for home PCs, and my son actually added a system to his game machine, but I’ve always been nervous about doing so. I think my limited, and often error prone, experience with home plumbing repairs has be scared.
I’ve rarely enjoyed being in a data center, especially the more modern designs that have a hot aisle and a cool aisle. Moving from one to the other is quite an experience, and one that I can’t think it good for your health over time. The older “cool” rooms I’ve been in weren’t much better, where I wore a winter coat all day when outside temperatures were 90F/30C and higher.
I don’t know that this will impact me, or if I’ll ever actually see another server machine in my career, but I do know we continue to demand more computing capacity and capability. Perhaps at some point a data center for Azure or AWS will look more a like a warehouse for freezers and anything else. At least the people servicing the systems will likely have a better work environment when the entire space doesn’t need to be cooled down.