Keith Dunnavant is an ASHRAE fellow and VP of Data Center Sales for the Americas at Munters, a global leader in energy-efficient air treatment and climate solutions. Dunnavant has over 20 years of experience in data center cooling technology.
Host John Sheff is joined by guest Keith Dunnavant, VP of Data Center Sales at Munters, to discuss data center cooling technology. Their conversation covers the latest advancements in cooling technologies, why efficient cooling is so important to data center operations and cooling trends on the horizon.
- All semiconductors have operating temperature limits. If the limit is exceeded, that can impact reliability, performance and life expectancy. Keeping data centers cool is critical.
- ASHRAE’s Thermal Guidelines for Data Processing Environments, first published in 2004 and currently in its 5th edition, sets the standards for data center cooling.
- The air temperature in most data centers is between 64-80 degrees Fahrenheit, with relative humidity between 10-70%.
- Cooling technology has evolved to keep up with data center technology. Through the late 1990s, cooling in data centers was treated like air conditioning. Cold air would get delivered to a big room, resulting in heavy compressor use and a lack of efficiency.
- In 2008, cold aisle containment, where heat is discharged out of the back of servers to a hot aisle, into a plenum and back to the cooling unit, was developed. This was a game-changer and made cooling more efficient.
- Cooling equipment has also evolved: pre-cooling chillers, cooling within racks (also known as in-row cooling) and use of evaporative cooling technologies.
- Data center cooling is a 24/7 business-critical operation that needs to operate year-round, in any weather conditions. The cooling system also needs to handle power disruptions. When the backup generators kick in, the cooling units need to start rapidly because servers are connected to an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) and generate heat continuously.
- Currently, data center cooling primarily involves air cooling, using evaporative cooling technologies where ambient air is allowed to float to high extremes before the evaporating unit is brought online.
- There is an increasing focus on energy efficiency; however, the cost of implementing more efficient methods can still be prohibitive for some companies.
- One trend is the use of more air-cooled chillers and chilled water crawl units.
- Currently, the cooling industry is experiencing challenges in sourcing. The prices of materials are going up and metal components are difficult to get. Companies are looking to develop strategic partnerships throughout the supply chain.
- Power use by all the servers in a data center is high and that power results in heat which needs to be removed. A great deal of electricity is needed for this process; on a hot summer day, the electricity usage for cooling is 40-50% of the IT power.
- The industry has developed a metric, power usage effectiveness, to measure efficiency of cooling systems
- The shift away from fossil fuels and increasing emphasis on creating power from renewable sources are creating opportunities to use the heat generated by data centers to power other buildings. In the future, data centers may be connected, via district loop, to greenhouses, shopping malls or any other facility that needs heat during the winter months.
- Data centers have been increasing in size but there are only so many places you can reject heat into the atmosphere. Centers will likely remain one or two stories high, since there is finite roof space for cooling units.
- We may see a shift toward smaller data centers as we move toward liquid cooling, which allows for greater density in IT equipment.
- Liquid cooling, such as immersion, direct to chip and two-phase, will become the dominant cooling strategy, although air cooling will likely remain in the picture for at least another decade.
- Semiconductor technology is also evolving, with IBM recently introducing a 2-nanometer chip, which could use up to 75% less energy than the current 7-nanometer chips. Cooling technologies will continue to evolve as data center equipment changes.
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