The biggest mistake is thinking the next 10 years will be anything like the last 10!
For the last decade, we have had relatively benign technology requirements without the challenges of rapid scale-up of processing capacity. We’ve also had relatively stable thermal solutions over this period, and it’s allowed the industry to focus much of its innovation around the most widely available technology – air cooling. However, it is now reaching the limits of what it can do.
Over the years designers have relied upon air-cooled servers. As air cooling approaches the limit of its capability to effectively cool ever denser processor cores on the latest server platforms, coupled with the fact that it is not energy efficient and doesn’t make the best use of valuable white space, means a change is coming.
The industry is starting to consider liquid cooling as the way forward. It enables, for example, server halls to be designed with greater flexibility, removing the dead space associated with air cooling. As well as the reduction in floor space because of ever denser racks, ceiling heights can be reduced or taller cabinets installed, as there is no return air requirement. This maximises the effective space.
Replacing mechanical air-cooling equipment with liquid cooling will reduce capital and operational expenditure. Additionally, it will increase the uptime and reliability of servers and storage devices by removing vibration defects and the risk of airborne contaminants.
By contrast, in the design of edge data centres organisations must recognise the superiority of liquid cooling techniques over air cooling. Where the application is implicitly focused on the maximisation of space utilisation, energy efficiency, silent and reliable operations, and physical security, there is no place for air cooling. There’s an old saying that if you keep on doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep on getting what you get.
The technologies that have brought us this far will not meet the energy, sustainability, processing power and scalability challenges the next 10 years present. It is time for a paradigm shift in the way we address cooling data centres of all shapes, sizes and locations. Chassis level liquid cooling represents the way forward.