Liquid Cooling Technology: Key to Sustainable Data Centre Operations

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Liquid Cooling Technology: Key to Sustainable Data Centre Operations

Liquid cooling for data centres offers businesses a range of benefits, including greater efficiency and sustainability, which presents opportunities for the channel, says Martin Ryder, channel sales director Northern Europe at Vertiv.

In data centre management, the search for efficiency and sustainability drives constant innovation. One such innovation garnering a lot of attention is liquid cooling, which promises a new era of energy-efficient cooling solutions poised to meet the evolving demands of modern computing infrastructures. With nearly one in five data centres already leveraging liquid cooling and an additional 61% considering its adoption, there is a good opportunity for the channel to help its customers with this growing technology. 

Liquid cooling in data centres brings a host of benefits that elevate operational and energy efficiency. Firstly, it excels in dissipating heat, surpassing traditional air-based methods by directly transferring heat away from components, optimising performance while minimising energy consumption. This precision in thermal management ensures uniform cooling across all parts, mitigating hot spots and extending the lifespan of equipment. Additionally, liquid cooling enables data centres to achieve higher power densities within a smaller footprint, crucial for accommodating the escalating demands of contemporary applications and workloads.

What’s more, adopting liquid cooling translates into tangible energy savings, as it diminishes reliance on excessive air conditioning, reducing operational costs and aligning with sustainability objectives. Liquid cooling is also quieter because the fans in a liquid cooled system tend to rotate slower and quieter than those in an air-cooling system. This can enhance the working environment for data centre personnel and mitigate noise pollution in surrounding areas.

Beyond immediate benefits, investing in liquid cooling technology is future-friendly data centre infrastructure, offering flexibility to adapt to evolving hardware requirements and thermal challenges. This adaptability is essential in navigating the dynamic landscape of technology. Additionally, liquid cooling contributes to environmental sustainability efforts by curbing electrical energy consumption and minimising carbon emissions, thereby lessening the environmental impact of data centre operations.

Challenges

As with any technology, adopting liquid cooling in data centres also presents challenges for some organisations. 

It’s important to note that navigating the adoption of liquid cooling in data centres requires meticulous planning and collaboration among IT, facility and power teams because the IT stack, power usage and building chiller will all be impacted by AI deployment and the data centre infrastructure that enables it. A clear strategy and good communication will enable a smooth process for infrastructure deployment and operational efficiency. 

Successful implementation also hinges on broader collaboration, extending beyond internal teams to encompass channel partners and end clients. Engaging with supply chain partners and channel stakeholders becomes paramount, as their input and support are instrumental in ensuring a smooth transition to liquid cooling technology. From procurement of specialised equipment to logistical considerations, their involvement streamlines the deployment process and enhances overall project success.

Deploying liquid cooling

When implementing liquid cooling, meticulous planning is crucial, considering factors such as facility layout, existing thermal management methods, workloads and financial constraints. The deployment process typically spans multiple stages:

Assess workload requirements: Before initiating the deployment, it’s essential to evaluate current and anticipated workload demands. This assessment provides insights into the cooling capacity needed to support the system effectively

Conduct site audit: Teams undertake a comprehensive site audit to determine the feasibility of integrating liquid cooling systems into the existing infrastructure. This involves collaborating with partners and conducting computational fluid dynamics studies to analyse airflow patterns. Additionally, assessments of current air-cooling equipment are conducted to assess their compatibility with the new hybrid cooling setup

Utilise Flow Network Modelling (FNM): FNM plays a pivotal role in the selection of coolant distribution units, sizing of piping and evaluating the system’s capability to accommodate server liquid cooling requirements. By employing FNM, teams can optimise the distribution of coolant throughout the infrastructure

Analyse Water and Power Usage Effectiveness (WUE and PUE): Evaluating WUE and PUE helps to optimise resource consumption and identify areas for efficiency improvements. Through careful analysis, teams can refine operations to enhance overall effectiveness

Assess Total Cost of Ownership (TCO): TCO studies provide insights into the long-term financial implications of deploying liquid cooling solutions. By considering factors such as equipment costs, maintenance expenses and energy consumption, organisations can make informed decisions to reduce operational costs

Model new infrastructure: Armed with data from the site audit and partner collaborations, IT and facility teams can proceed to model the new infrastructure within the available space. This phase involves designing the layout for integrating liquid cooling components while optimising space.

A hybrid approach

Ultimately, the adoption of liquid cooling heralds a new era in data centre thermal management, marking a significant leap forward in addressing the escalating demands of modern IT infrastructure. However, a hybrid approach to cooling, which combines air and liquid cooling technologies, is poised to be the way forward for most data to effectively remove the heat from the room and the racks centres in the future. In this way, the strengths of each cooling method can be leveraged to optimise thermal management in data centres, offering several key advantages.

By strategically employing liquid cooling to target specific hotspots and enhance temperature control, this approach optimises efficiency and reliability in cooling systems. Leveraging liquid cooling’s superior heat transfer capacity, the hybrid approach can support dense workloads without compromising performance while reducing overall energy consumption compared to conventional air only cooling methods. 

As data centre environments continue to evolve rapidly, remaining vigilant and proactive in exploring emerging technologies and innovative cooling solutions will be paramount. It is important to work with experienced providers that can provide consultancy and customised designs. A good example is how the University of Pisa collaborated with Vertiv to expand its infrastructure capacity to support High Performance Computing and AI.
By embracing this forward-looking approach, organisations can navigate the challenges of the digital age and seize opportunities to drive sustained business growth and competitiveness in an increasingly
dynamic marketplace.