Just a month ago, our team spent a week at SC23, the premier global conference for high-performance computing (HPC) professionals. Thousands of people and hundreds of companies were represented for a week of training, workshops, presentations, networking, and discoveries.

This year, there was a big surprise that shook up the show:

Servers are getting too hot.

If you’ve been living in the cloud infrastructure world, you might not know what we’re talking about. But for those of us who have been working in and around high-performance computing of various kinds, we’re very familiar with the problem of cooling hardware at scale. 

For decades, the HPC world has, to a greater or lesser degree, wrestled with this problem, and from the earliest Cray supercomputers, vendors and operators adopted liquid cooling because of all its advantages: support for greater densities, support for 90% utilization, support for improved power efficiency, ability to boost server reliability and so on. 

But immersion cooling has been a niche technology, until now. Most data centers didn’t support it, or only supported it for small scale deployments. 

What’s changed? 

As anyone reading this knows, generative AI has become the new, highly exciting technology of 2023. As researchers from every analyst firm will tell you, though it’s currently very hyped, it has the potential to be bigger than the internet. 

And that possibility comes with a challenge: AI infrastructure is very hot. 

Videos show the latest AI server consumes up to 10.2 kW of power. The average data center can cool around 6 kW per rack.   

Data centers, as Schneider Electric noted, aren’t ready for AI. 

And for the first time ever, attendees and exhibitors at SC23 knew the problem and were trying to solve it… with immersion cooling. 

As Patrick Scateni, our Chief Evangelist and VP of Global Sales said, “20% of the vendors on this floor are selling immersion cooling.” 

Dozens of vendors, from startups to Fortune 100 companies, announced and demoed the latest data center cooling technologies. Vendors we all know and love brought direct-to-chip cooled servers, rear-door heat exchangers, and immersion tanks. Bubbling fluids, coolant distribution units, pipes, pumps, and even fiber-to-copper connectors for immersion tanks were around every corner. 

Why does this matter? Because this show felt like a tipping point that those of us in immersion cooling had been waiting for. 

For years, the industry has talked about the importance of immersion cooling for solving intractable problems like data center density, water utilization, and PUE. We’ve seen specialist vendors, mostly smaller organizations, producing liquid cooling tech, and getting wins, to be sure. For years, we’ve heard the talk, but the technologies weren’t getting widespread adoption. 

AI has forced everyone’s hand. 

What we saw at SC23, and will likely see at other shows in 2024, is that immersion cooling has become a mainstream solution. Everyone from server manufacturers, rack enclosure manufacturers, colocation companies, and cloud providers showed off their commitment to this solution. Fortune 100 vendors brought immersion cooling technology to SC23, and booths that had immersion cooling had long lines to find out more. 

It was an exciting moment. Seeing all the buzz and all the innovation showed us that the world is ready for immersion cooling. 

From our point of view, it’s about time. We can see a future where the entire industry begins shifting to immersion cooling, as they’ll have a wide range of vendors to choose from. Whether they prefer direct to chip, rear door heat exchangers, or our own immersion cooling solutions, they’ll have a rapidly expanding ecosystem to draw on. 

At Hypertec, we’ve been driving this change for years. As one of the few vendors with a proven track record designing and implementing immersion cooling solutions, we can work with organizations of all sizes as a strategic partner, supporting AI, crypto, high-frequency trading, or scientific computing infrastructure with all the advantages of mature immersion cooling technology.

Explore the unrivalled benefits of immersion cooling for your data centers at our Immersion Cooling Hub on the Hypertec website, and connect with our experts today to enhance your cooling strategy and navigate the challenges with confidence.

This post is also available in: FR

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