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Three questions and answers: why water cooling is the best choice for servers

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Self-developed water cooling systems save quite a lot of energy in the new OVHcloud data center. In the interview, the iX looks behind the scenes of the technology.


OVHcloud is putting a new data center into operation in Limburg an der Lahn: It should be as energy-efficient and resource-saving as possible. We talk to Falk Weinreich about how server operations can be made sustainable and yet profitable.

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A green data center is good – but like other cloud providers, OVHcloud already operates some smoking data centers. How do you intend to make this sustainable?

We’ve never had “smoky” data centers. Since OVHcloud was founded more than 20 years ago, the company has used its own patented water cooling systems for server rooms and power rooms in its data centers, which are much more energy-efficient than the air cooling systems commonly found on the market. With this system, the water block sits directly on top of the CPU (or GPU) to increase precision, cooling efficiency, and reliability. OVHcloud has continued to refine this system over the years. As a result, our data centers around the world achieve an average Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of between 1.10 and 1.3. For comparison: The average PUE value of all data centers in Germany is 1.631.

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By eliminating the active air cooling infrastructure, including server fans, chillers, air ducts, and filters, this approach enables significant energy savings. For example, water-to-chip cooling eliminates the need for server fans, resulting in a significant reduction in power consumption for the same workload. This innovation alone has resulted in energy savings on the order of 20 to 30 percent compared to running traditional OEM equipment.


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In addition, at OVHcloud we have worked according to the principles of the circular economy from the very beginning. In our factories in Croix (France) and Beauharnois (Canada), we manufacture our servers component by component and optimize their lifespan to reduce their ecological footprint. After the end of their regular lifespan, 100 percent of the IT components are sorted, checked and returned to the economic cycle. This gives the servers a second and third lifecycle, resulting in an average total lifespan of seven years, with some servers up to nine years. Total control allows us to evaluate the performance of each component during maintenance. For each tested component there are three possible outcomes:

  • the component is still usable and goes back into inventory,
  • the component is still usable, but is no longer needed and is resold to dealers,
  • the component is defective and will be recycled by ecologically certified service providers.

The resulting proportion of reused components (Reused Components Ratio) is 34 percent.

Rainwater tanks are used for cooling in the new data center in Limburg. But this hot summer has shown, for example with the nuclear power plants in France, how risky climate change can be. How do you intend to deal with such situations?

We are aware that water is a precious and scarce resource. That is precisely why we have invested a lot of work in the research and development of our water cooling system, with success: the so-called Water Usage Effectiveness (WUE) at OVHcloud is on average between 0.17 and 0.20 L/kWh IT, the industry average is 1.82 . In other words, for 10 hours of uptime, a server at OVHcloud needs a glass of water, which is the industry standard for a large 1.8 liter bottle of water. OVHcloud also uses a closed loop water system to limit liquid waste as much as possible.

Cloud costs will increase, especially because of electricity prices. And in the end, the bill is decisive for many customers when making the cloud decision – how does OVH in Europe want to be able to hold its own against the US giants in the long term?

Value for money is one of our key commitments and remains at the heart of our value proposition to our customers. They are already benefiting from cost savings that we are enabling them to do thanks to innovations such as the water cooling mentioned or the complete reversibility of our cloud services.

However, we also have to take account of the current inflationary pressure, particularly as a result of rising electricity prices. While we have so far been able to avoid price increases thanks to the long-term management of our energy costs, we will have to make price adjustments for new and existing services in the coming months. However, this does not change our goal of continuing to offer our customers innovative, data-sovereign and reversible cloud services with a price structure that is always transparent.

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