[Insights] Immersive Liquid Cooling Becomes Key Tech for AI Server Heat, Companies Focus

2023-11-22 Semiconductors editor

Intel collaborates with Foxconn, Microloops, and Inventec to introduce a new cooling technology. Boasting superior performance compared to conventional liquid cooling, this initiative, alongside Gigabyte and Wiwynn, aims to enter the server immersion liquid cooling technology market, positioning themselves for potential orders.

TrendForce’s Insights:

  1. Intel Teams Up with Taiwanese Manufacturers to Pave the Way for Liquid Cooling Technologies, Targeting Immersive Water-Cooled AI Server Orders

Intel, in collaboration with Foxconn, Microloops, and Inventec, introduces a brand new Liquid Cooling solution. This technology, capable of managing Thermal Design Power (TDP) exceeding 1500W, utilizes the principles of physical pressurization to facilitate rapid liquid flow for efficient heat dissipation.

With a threefold improvement in performance over conventional liquid cooling, the liquid cooling plate circulates water to dissipate heat. Future developments include non-conductive liquid solutions to mitigate leakage risks.

Simultaneously, Gigabyte’s subsidiary, GIGA Computing Technology, partners with liquid cooling experts CoolIT and Motivair to unveil cutting-edge liquid cooling solutions. The strategic focus on liquid and immersive liquid cooling aims to enhance the sustainability and energy efficiency of data centers.

Wiwynn, also keenly interested in liquid cooling technology, has secured substantial orders from Middle Eastern clients by prioritizing two-phase immersion cooling technology, with rumors suggesting the order’s value is approximately USD 4 billion.

The advantages of two-phase cooling technology include fanless operation, rapid heat dissipation, noiseless and vibration-free performance, and higher cooling energy efficiency. Moreover, it is less susceptible to environmental influences, ensuring normal usage.

On the other hand, Taiwanese manufacturers, AURAS Technology and AVC (Asia Vital Components), are actively developing and mass-producing open-loop liquid cooling and immersion liquid cooling technologies.

Due to the novelty of immersion cooling technology, the current market demand visibility is relatively low. However, major Taiwanese contract manufacturers are increasingly focusing on the technical development and introduction of immersion cooling solutions. This is primarily driven by the growing demand for high-end AI servers, which require efficient computation and often generate high power consumption.

At present, only immersion liquid cooling can provide a cooling solution surpassing 1500W, meeting the requirements of large-scale data centers. Consequently, numerous Taiwanese manufacturers are actively engaging in the development of this technology to seize the opportunities presented by the initial wave of immersion liquid cooling products.

  1. Short-Term Dominance of 3D VC Air Cooling and Open Liquid Cooling Technologies in Heat Dissipation Solutions

Due to the need for adjustments in facility structure, including the layout of cooling spaces, immersion liquid cooling comes with higher construction costs. Cases of immersion liquid cooling in large-scale data centers are also relatively rare.

In consideration of cost, many enterprise users still opt for 3D VC (Vapor Chamber) air cooling technology to establish their data centers, aiming to save on the significant costs associated with facility modifications.

3D VC air cooling and open liquid cooling technologies are the current primary options for heat dissipation solutions. The retrofitting cost for 3D VC is twice that of traditional cooling modes, while the cost for liquid cooling solutions can be up to 10 times higher than traditional modes.

Therefore, enterprise users need to tailor their server deployments based on specific requirements, taking into account the Thermal Design Power (TDP) to choose the corresponding heat dissipation solution.

For instance, AI servers with power consumption ranging from 1000 to 1500W can utilize open liquid cooling solutions, while those below 1000W may adopt the 3D VC cooling approach.

With the target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, both China and Europe impose restrictions on the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of data centers, limiting it to no higher than 1.4.

In anticipation of this, server OEMs and cooling solution providers are expected to increase the development and offerings of liquid and immersive liquid cooling products. This trend aims to provide data centers with customized solutions and services, aligning with the evolving energy efficiency requirements.