Computing technology and equipment continuously advance, yet the infrastructure that supports data centers generally lag behind. As a result, data centers are inflexible and ill-equipped to adapt quickly to technological innovations; leaving them struggling to keep up with current demands of the business and unable to plan effectively to meet future demand.
Power is a key element of that intrinsically static infrastructure. It represents 10% of a data center’s operating costs and is expected to grow to 15% by 2021, accorind to Gartner. The cost of power and demand charges are increasing in part because of expanding demand from the adoption of innovative technologies like AI, virtual reality (VR), the IoT, data analytics, and other commercial high-performance computing. These applications require more powerful and energy-intensive servers to deliver the kind of performance that end-users expect. In many cases, this increased power load from servers pushes the total power requirements for the data center to the limit of the available electric service coming into the building.
When data centers push up against these boundaries, owners and operators are under pressure to find a solution. There are three choices to increase capacity when a data center approaches the limits of available power: new data center sites, cloud, or colocation; have the local electric company bring more power to the site; or find a way to utilize more of the available power for the critical IT load rather than infrastructure.
New data centers take time to plan and build, colos and clouds aren’t a viable option for those needing an on-premises facility, and bringing more power to the site is a capital investment best delayed or avoided as long as possible.
Liquid immersion cooling is a way to reallocate power from cooling into an increased critical load within the same power envelope. It reduces the load in a few ways.
- Servers use 5% to 20% less critical power by removing IT fans. This can delay expansion of UPS system.
- The cooling system moving liquid slowly uses less energy than moving air quickly.
- Warm water may be used with immersion cooling, resulting in a PUE of <1.05
Power envelope constraints are a growing problem in data centers adopting innovative, energy-intensive technology solutions. By using less power to cool critical IT equipment, and combining that with removal of CRAC units in many cases, liquid immersion cooling frees up existing energy to carry the increased compute load. With liquid cooling, data centers don't have to resort to costly or sometimes non-viable options like bringing more power to the site, building a new data center, or relocating to the cloud. They can move past current limitations and be ready for the high-performance computing of today and the future.