Heatwaves 'highlight need for liquid cooling systems'


10 August 2022

The rising frequency of extreme weather periods in Europe means a move towards liquid cooling systems for data centres is needed, according to a sector expert.

This warning follows record-breaking temperatures in the UK last month, with some locations exceeding 40°C. As a result, a number of high-profile service providers experienced outages that impacted customer service as far as the US.

With the UK MET Office warning that heatwaves are set to become more frequent, more intense and long-lasting, Gemma Reeves, data centre specialist at Alfa Laval, believes a transition to liquid cooling systems is required. She said: “The temperatures observed last month are a sign of what is to come. Summers are continuing to get hotter by the year, so it’s important that data centres are able to manage the heat effectively.

“Mechanical cooling methods have long been growing unfit for the needs of the modern data centre, with last month’s weather only serving to highlight this. As both outside temperatures and rack densities continue to rise, more efficient approaches to cooling will clearly be necessary.”

Traditional mechanical cooling systems make use of an electronically-powered chiller, which creates cold air to be distributed by a ventilation system. However, most mechanical cooling systems in the UK are designed for a maximum outdoor temperature of 32°C – a figure which continues to be regularly exceeded.

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Reeves believes that liquid cooling can solve this challenge. Cooling with dielectric fluid rather than air means that the cooling systems may be run at much higher temperatures. 

Liquid cooled principles such as direct-to-chip, single-phase immersive IT chassis, or single-phase immersive tub allow for the servers to remain cool despite much higher outdoor air temperatures, while maintaining lower energy consumption and providing options for onward heat reuse. In studies, this has also showed to increase lifetime for servers due to maintaining stable stasis.

Reeves concluded: “The data centre sector remains in an era of air-based cooling. That said, July’s recent heatwave may be the stark reminder the sector needs that these systems are not sustainable in the long term.

“Liquid cooling is truly the future of data centres, this technique allows us to cool more quickly and more efficiently than ever before, which will be a key consideration with temperatures on the rise.”

For more information on Alfa Laval data centre cooling systems, click here.