Artificial intelligence, high-density computing, modular data centers and advances in cooling technologies were among the subjects discussed at a Vertiv virtual conference last week.
The Vertiv Data Center Cooling Innovation Forum, which included contributions from Vertiv executives and data center analysts, focused on the growing importance of cooling technologies in the booming data center market.
The half-day event, which you can watch online, included a keynote panel discussion on the evolution of data center cooling technologies, a tour of the Vertiv customer experience center in Padua, Italy, consisting of six labs to test various thermal management technologies. One of labs has cooling capacities of up to 1.5 MW and a broad range of working conditions, from -10°C to +55°C.
“2020 has been a very complex year for the world, hopefully with a light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel” said Giordano Albertazzi, President of Vertiv in Europe, Middle East and Africa, in the event’s opening remarks. “If there have been any silver linings to 2020, one of them is surely that in 10 months, the pandemic spurred on the acceleration of almost 10-years’ worth of digital transformation. For our industry, this has translated to some fast-paced growth.”
Increased Computing Capacity Demands Data Center Cooling Innovation
Lucas Beran, Principal Analyst at Omdia, a technology research company, said that growth in the data center cooling market was due largely to enterprises’ growing need for computing capacity, as well as cloud and colocation providers, which are building large and efficient data centers, he said.
Recent research by Omdia, found that sustainable and innovative cooling technologies, such as chilled water, evaporative and liquid cooling, are becoming more widely used in data centers. The research (‘Data Centre Thermal Management Report 2020’), which is based on 2018 and 2019 data, says that Vertiv has a 23.5% share of the global data center cooling market – more than 10% higher than its nearest competitor.
The Omdia research predicts that there will also be strong growth in forms of liquid cooling (including “immersion cooling”, in which servers and other IT equipment are submerged in coolant liquid in tanks, and “direct-to-chip”, where liquid coolant is fed directly into computer chips in data center equipment to keep them cool), is expected to double between 2020 and 2024.
Enhancing Data Center Energy Efficiency with New Technologies
Liquid cooling can help data centers become carbon neutral, but the technology requires customization for it to be used in data centers, Beran said.
Consolidation in the data center industry and enterprise spending on technologies, including Big Data, analytics and artificial intelligence, means that data centers are getting bigger.
These high-performance technologies will boost spending on data centers over the next three years, said Beran.
Economies of scale mean improvements in energy efficiency become more marked. Cooling technology must be interoperable and flexible enough to scale with their organization’s IT needs, not just at large core sites, but in the growing number of smaller Edge sites, which will become increasingly important for telecom operators.
Much of the growth in the data center market is due to hyperscale and colocation data center providers which continue to build and roll out new platforms, said Peter Lambrecht, Vice President, Key Accounts Sales at Vertiv in Europe, Middle East and Africa. “Big is getting bigger in data centers. We have moved from 10-20 megawatt data centers to 100-200 of megawatts. The bigger they get, the more efficiently they can run.”
Where Is Data Center Cooling Innovation Coming From?
During the second part of its conference, Vertiv demonstrated and discussed some of its cooling technologies, including:
- Direct Expansion Cooling (which includes the new Liebert® PDX with variable speed compressors)
- Chilled Water Cooling (including the Liebert PCW indoor cooling unit, Liebert OFC and Liebert AFC chillers)
- Outdoor Package Solutions (including Liebert EFC and Liebert DSE)
As data centers get bigger, they need innovative cooling technologies to reduce their carbon emissions and help them meet targets for energy efficiency.
In particular, refrigerants are a “key driver” of sustainable data centers, said Roberto Felisi, Senior Director, Global Offering Management Core Systems at Vertiv, adding that it is important to have industry certifications to measure the energy efficiency of data center cooling products.
Other trends in the data center market discussed during the event included growing demand for modular, prefabricated data centers, which are typically smaller and quicker to deploy than traditional ones.
Lambrecht, said that most of the increasing number of modular Edge data centers will not have staff working in them. That will mean they need to be monitored remotely and have self-repairing technology, he said.
“We won’t have enough engineers to run thousands of [Edge data center] sites,” he pointed out. “The technology needs to be as smart as possible as most of the sites will be unmanned.”
Innovation is key. Especially in Data Center Cooling
In the final interactive Q&A session, panelists and conference delegates discussed how liquid cooling would help data centers become more environmentally sustainable. Attempts to agree industry standards for cooling technologies, including the Open Compute project, are at an early stage, but they may help achieve this goal.
Despite a tumultuous year, speakers and delegates at the event remained upbeat about the future of cooling technologies and the data center industry.
“This is an important moment for the data center industry with regards to what it can do for the world,” said Albertazzi. “Innovation is key.”
Want a quick overview of the forum? Take a look at our event highlights sketch below or catch up on the event in full online.