Liquid cooling becomes mainstream to improve energy efficiency

Companies in China are adopting liquid cooling technology in a bid to improve energy efficiency. According to Alan Chang, VP of Technical Operations, Inspur Systems: “The request for liquid cooling has been crazy.”

Speaking to The Register, Chang said he believes that the increased interest in liquid cooling is due to new regulations introduced by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) last year with the aim of improving the power efficiency of domestic data centres.

MIIT predicts the country's national compute fleet will grow at 20 per cent a year, which means that the country will need more energy-efficient data centres. The country has, therefore, ordered data centres to be constructed in the East where it is cooler and plans to migrate five million racks full of kit to those facilities.

Lucas Beran, analyst, Dell'Oro told The Register that thermal management can account for as much as 40 per cent of a data centre’s power consumption, with much of that attributable to air conditioning units. Using liquid cooling at scale allows data centre operators to substantially reduce the amount of power used by aircon and other powered thermal management systems.

Beran added that he doesn’t believe US climate policy needs to follow in China’s footsteps as he believes that America will develop the same level of interest in liquid cooling but for different reasons. He said: “The main driver of liquid cooling adoption [in the US] is going to be the lower operating expenditures and potentially even the lower capex of some of that infrastructure.”

However, Beran does believe there needs to be standardisation as, without it, a data centre could claim an incredibly low PUE by sacrificing their water usage effectiveness. “You can just use a heck of a lot of water to crank your PUE down,” he said. “Is that more sustainable? What's the trade-off between the water and electricity there?"

According to his latest estimate, Beran says that liquid cooling tech is on track to reach 19 per cent of the data centre thermal management market by 2026.

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