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 three 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.
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.
A critical aspect to consider, especially when talking about the different alternatives, is how they fit into the overall picture of ROI and total cost of ownership (TCO).
- Alternatives – rear door heat exchangers and immersion cooling
Rear door heat exchangers: These are typically used in conjunction with air-cooled systems to enhance cooling efficiency. They capture the hot air expelled by the IT equipment and exchange it with cooler air before returning it to the data centre. It’s a more localised solution that can provide improved cooling for specific high-density racks.
Immersion cooling: This involves submerging IT equipment in a dielectric liquid that is a better conductor of heat than air. It offers highly efficient cooling and is particularly effective for high-density deployments. Immersion cooling eliminates the need for traditional air-cooling methods.
- Air cooling vs. liquid cooling
Air cooling: Still a viable solution, especially for lower-density applications and existing data centres. However, as power densities increase, the limitations of air cooling become more apparent. It’s essential to optimise air-cooling solutions, and alternatives like rear door heat exchangers can help.
Liquid cooling: Provides more efficient heat dissipation, especially for high-density workloads like GPUs and accelerators. Direct-to-chip liquid cooling or immersion cooling can significantly enhance cooling efficiency and enable higher power densities. Liquid cooling is particularly beneficial for the long-term sustainability of data centres.
- ROI and TCO considerations
ROI with liquid cooling: The ROI with liquid cooling may not be immediate but is more of a long-term benefit. The improved energy efficiency, reduced operational costs, and longer lifespan of components contribute to a favourable ROI over the lifecycle of the system.
TCO factors: When assessing the total cost of ownership, it’s crucial to consider not only the initial investment but also operational costs, energy consumption and maintenance. Liquid cooling systems, when optimised and integrated effectively, can provide better TCO by reducing energy consumption and increasing overall efficiency.
- Lifecycle analysis
Long-term perspective: The lifecycle analysis is crucial. Liquid cooling solutions, when designed to accommodate multiple generations of hardware, can offer continued benefits over several technology refresh cycles. This aligns with the evolving nature of data centre technologies.
To summarise, the choice between air cooling and liquid cooling depends on the specific needs of the data centre, the current power densities, and the growth trajectory. Alternatives like rear door heat exchangers and immersion cooling can complement these cooling methods. The key is to align the chosen solution with the long-term goals of the data centre, considering factors like energy efficiency, scalability and overall operational costs.
The idea of agnostic support for various liquid cooling technologies and the need for infrastructure that can adapt to different generations of server refreshes is crucial. It’s not just about the initial deployment but ensuring that the cooling infrastructure remains versatile and can support the evolving landscape of liquid cooling technologies over the long term.
As we move forward, standards and agnostic approaches will play a pivotal role in making liquid cooling more accessible and easier to adopt for a broader range of data centres. This not only streamlines the implementation of liquid cooling but also helps in managing ROI and TCO effectively over multiple technology refresh cycles.
Continued in part four…