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Intel starts cooling its servers by dunking them in mineral oil

Keeping servers cool is always a big concern for tech companies, and people are always trying to try new things to keep the temps down in order to keep performance up. At Intel, they’re testing an interesting solution— keeping their servers in vats of mineral oil.

Intel just finished a yearlong test of Green Revolution Cooling’s mineral-oil server-immersion technology. Intel has tried immersing servers in the company’s oil formulation to keep the servers cool and they report good results. The Intel servers were subjected to a yearlong bath in boxes filled with the oil-based coolant.

Intel’s results are one more way for the Austin, Texas-based company to pass along a convincing message that dipping a data center’s servers in oil is not crazy but a sane way to cool the data center’s power-hungry machines. The company believes its liquid cooling enclosures can cool high-density server installations at less cost.

"We can reduce cooling energy use by 90 to 95 percent while also reducing server power by 10 to 20 percent," according to the company.

Intel reports that the servers ran at a PUE just above 1.0, and showed no damage. Translation: Traditional air-cooled server racks often operate at a Power Usage Effectiveness rating of about 1.6. Intel’s oil-immersed servers operated at a PUE between 1.02 and 1.03, according to Mike Patterson, senior power and thermal architect at Intel. Patterson said the oil-dunking approach is now in Intel’s evaluation phase. Intel will need to understand the fuller implications of oil-optimized platforms.

Potentially, the approach may reduce the cost of running data centers, as cooling through the oil immersion system can bring reductions in average and peak power consumption. Those taking their first leap to use this oil immersion approach would be those who want as much power as possible coming out of their computing operations with as little as possible applied toward cooling.


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