Exclusive Facebook is dunking its servers in gloop in a salt shed in Oregon so it can overclock their processors, The Register has learned.
The experimental, brutal "immersion cooling" scheme was revealed to us by Facebook hardware design and supply chain bigwig Frank Frankovsky on Friday. Though Facebook had tested out an immersion cooled server in 2012, the company is now moving to get the kit into a state where it can be deployed en masse.
"Today we and most others use 100 percent outside air [to cool servers]," Frankovsky explains. "One of the really cool and intriguing things that is a potential future would be to see how far we could overclock CPUs if we could cool them with liquid."
To figure out if liquid cooling is appropriate for its systems, the company is currently experimenting with a design that turns an Open Compute Project server rack onto its side and runs the power busbar systems parallel to the floor, with motherboards plugging in on top, he said.
"Most of the thought we have around that cooling is that Open Rack laid flat on its back," Frankovsky explained.
By surrounding the servers in a liquid the company should be able to ramp up the clockspeed of their processors without worrying about breaking the CPUs, he said.
But this brings its own problems, due to the "pretty slippery" liquid. Frankovsky notes that it's not usually a good idea to fill a data center with viscous gloop.
"If you want to deploy those immersion cooling bathtubs at scale you have to have the service mode wrapped up and then you envision the way robotics could play – keep it over a drip tray and go back to a repair room."
Facebook has no immediate plans to put the systems into production, but is pushing on with the scheme as "we've got the reality of how to make it a servicable configuration," Frankovsky said.
Facebook didn't disclose the precise technology it was using for the scheme, but we would note that a company named Iceotope came out of stealth this year with a magic liquid named 3M Novec that is non-conductive and viscous.
For this reason, and given Frankovsky's description of the slippery gloop Facebook is using, we doubt the company is doing water cooling via radiator panels as many supercomputer operators do. ®