Intel sharpens focus on immersion cooling

Chip giant teams with startup GRC to take immersion cooling mainstream.

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Intel is collaborating with Green Revolution Cooling (GRC), a startup specializing in immersion cooling for server hardware, in an effort that seeks to take immersion cooling mainstream.

The two companies announced a multi-year partnership that involves working with data center customers to develop and implement advanced immersion cooling techniques for future data centers. The two will look to test the safety and reliability of the technology for immersion-cooled racks running Intel Xeon Scalable processors.

Immersion cooling it just what the name implies. Rather than cover the CPU and other chips with heat sinks, the whole motherboard is immersed in a liquid bath that keeps all of the hardware cool. Clearly the bath is not water, but rather a non-conductive fluid that won’t fry the electronics.

grc iceraq series 10 GRC

GRC ICEraQ Series 10 immersion cooling system

While the partners talked up optimizing system performance of immersion-cooled racks powered by Intel Xeon Scalable processors, it’s chips like GPUs and AI processors that really could benefit from immersion because they run the hottest.

In addition to research, the two companies plan to work together to educate the market on the benefits of liquid immersion cooling technology through webinars, a podcast series and white papers.

“Our collaboration with GRC aligns with Intel’s goal of supporting cutting edge technologies that provide increased efficiency and density for data center and edge deployments,” said Mohan Kumar, senior fellow at Intel, in a statement.

“Through this collaboration, we are able to provide customers with custom solutions to meet their computing and cooling needs to help ensure that data centers operate in a more environmentally sensitive way,” he said.

This is not Intel’s first dance with immersion. In August 2021 it announced a similar agreement with European immersion cooling startup Submer to develop immersible Xeon Scalable-based systems.

Liquid immersion cooling gains popularity

I have suspected for some time that this could be the breakout year for immersion cooling. Last year its biggest champion was Microsoft, which engaged in an extensive immersion cooling experiment at its Quincy, Washington, data center. It found the servers reduced power consumption by 5% to 15% through immersion cooling.

Microsoft used DataTanks immersion tanks developed and made by LiquidStack, which received $10 million in funding last year from Chinese server hardware vendor Wiwynn. The investment was part of a strategic partnership between the two to boost liquid cooling development. Microsoft was an early adopter of DataTanks, which undoubtedly helped raise its profile

With Microsoft and Intel on board, I think it’s just a matter of time before hyperscalers (AWS, Google) and other chip makers (AMD, Nvidia) get religion about immersion cooling. 2022 could be the breakout year for the technology.

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