The high-density deployments of modern data centers have intensive power demands, but much of that power doesn’t actually go to the servers and computing equipment itself. Instead, it goes to the cooling equipment that prevents those systems from overheating. In fact, most of the energy inefficiencies associated with private data centers can be traced directly to the cooling infrastructure.
Data center cooling is a huge market that’s expected to be worth about $8 billion by 2023. With power densities increasing rapidly, many companies are investing heavily in new data center cooling technologies to ensure that they’ll be able to harness the computing power of the next generation of processors. Larger tech companies like Google are even leveraging the power of artificial intelligence to improve cooling efficiency. And previously farfetched solutions like liquid server cooling systems are quickly becoming commonplace as companies experiment with innovative ways to cool a new generation of high-performance processors.
Given the importance of data center cooling infrastructure, it’s worth taking a moment to examine some common technologies used in today’s facilities.
A form of data center cooling technology designed specifically for high-density servers. It optimizes the airflow path through equipment to allow the cooling system to manage heat more effectively, making it possible to increase the ratio of circuit boards per server chassis and utilize fewer fans.
A data center cooling system commonly used in mid-to-large-sized data centers that uses chilled water to cool air being brought in by air handlers (CRAHs). Water is supplied by a chiller plant located somewhere in the facility.
A common form of data center server rack deployment that uses alternating rows of “cold aisles” and “hot aisles.” The cold aisles feature cold air intakes on the front of the racks, while the hot aisles consist of the hot air exhausts on the back of the racks. Hot aisles expel hot air into the air conditioning intakes to be chilled and then vented into the cold aisles. Empty racks are filled by blanking panels to prevent overheating or wasted cold air.
One of the most common features of any data center, CRAC units are very similar to conventional air conditioners powered by a compressor that draws air across a refrigerant-filled cooling unit. They are quite inefficient in terms of energy usage, but the equipment itself is relatively inexpensive.
A CRAH unit functions as part of a broader system involving a chilled water plant (or chiller) somewhere in the facility. Chilled water flows through a cooling coil inside the unit, which then uses modulating fans to draw air from outside the facility. Because they function by chilling outside air, CRAH units are much more efficient when used in locations with colder annual temperatures.
Represents the total usable cooling capacity (usually expressed in watts of power) on the data center floor for the purposes of cooling servers.
A data center liquid cooling method that uses pipes to deliver coolant directly to a cold plate that is incorporated into a motherboard’s processors to disperse heat. Extracted heat is fed into a chilled-water loop and carried away to a facility’s chiller plant. Since this system cools processors directly, it’s one of the most effective forms of server cooling.
Manages temperature by using exposing hot air to water, which causes the water to evaporate and draw the heat out of the air. The water can be introduced either in the form of a misting system or a wet material such as a filter or mat. While this system is very energy efficient since it doesn’t use CRAC or CRAH units, it does require a lot of water. Cooling towers are often used to facilitate evaporations and transfer excess heat to the outside atmosphere.
Any data center cooling system that uses the outside atmosphere to introduce cooler air into the servers rather than continually chilling the same air. While this can only be implemented in certain climates, it’s a very energy-efficient form of server cooling.
An innovative new data center liquid cooling solution that submerges hardware into a bath of non-conductive, non-flammable dielectric fluid.
Any cooling technology that uses liquid to evacuate heat from the air. Increasingly, data center liquid cooling refers to specifically direct cooling solutions that expose server components (such as processors) to liquid to cool them more efficiently.
A frame that lifts the data center floor above the building’s concrete slab floor. The space between the two is used for water-cooling pipes or increased airflow. While power and network cables were once run through this space as well, newer designs and best practices place these cables overhead.
As data center power demands continue to increase, new cooling technologies will be needed to keep facilities operating at peak capacity. By incorporating tried and true methods like cold aisle/hot aisle deployment and the latest innovations like direct-to-chip server cooling, data centers can continue to deliver reliable services at high levels of uptime.
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