In the dynamic realm of data centre cooling, the CTO of Data Centre Dynamics, Steven Warren, leads a panel discussion featuring industry experts on the Vertiv platform. This is part one of a four-part article.
The focus of this discourse is on an innovative approach to cooling – direct chip cooling – and whether it is emerging as the front-runner in the data centre cooling landscape.
Warren extends gratitude to Vertiv and Nigel Gore, senior director for liquid cooling, for their valuable support in hosting this insightful discussion. The panel includes Ali Heydari, data centre technologist at Nvidia; Devdatta Kulkarni, principal thermo architect for Intel Corp.; Tim Shedd, engineering technologist at Dell; and Rob Curtis, a prominent figure in the industry.
Gore takes the floor to provide context for the discussion. The key trend identified is the escalating rack power density in data centres. Average server power density, which equates to heat generation, has surged from 300 watts five years ago to an astonishing 800 watts in January 2022. Extrapolating forward, Gore anticipates reaching 2.2kW–2.4kW per average server power by 2027. This surge poses significant challenges for infrastructure operators in managing power densities and associated cooling challenges.
Liquid cooling as a necessity
Around 17% of rack densities are now exceeding 16kW, and Gore emphasises the need for liquid cooling options to effectively manage the rising power. Technologies like immersion cooling, cold plates for direct chip cooling, and heat exchangers are presented as solutions. The trends driving this need include the demands of generative AI, large storage arrays, high-frequency performance chips, and sustainability considerations.
Gore delves into the challenges faced by operations teams in managing high-density applications in the data centre. He highlights the importance of elevated temperatures for effective heat rejection and discusses the planning required for distributing liquids to racks. Attention is drawn to factors such as galvanic corrosion and CPU protection to ensure the smooth operation of liquid cooling systems.
The discussion explores the innovations in liquid cooling technologies, including distributed liquid systems, enhanced power delivery mechanisms, and the introduction of dropping chilled water units. Immersion tanks are introduced as a promising technology, with a careful examination of the distinctions between direct chip cooling and immersion technologies.
Warren concludes the introduction, expressing eagerness to hear insights from the panellists regarding the technology’s impact on the future of data centre cooling. The stage is set for a detailed exploration of directed chip cooling and its potential to lead the way in addressing the evolving needs of data centre infrastructures.
Continued in part two…