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BSRIA study reveals changing technology for data centre cooling

BSRIA has published a new market study which shows that – with the CISCO Cloud Index forecasting – data centre traffic will grow at 23 per cent CAGR, reaching 8.6 zettabytes by 2018.

BSRIA has published a new market study which shows that – with the CISCO Cloud Index forecasting – data centre traffic will grow at 23 per cent CAGR, reaching 8.6 zettabytes by 2018.


The move to off-site data centres is at the heart of this growing trend, however, it is not uncommon for data-critical organisations to retain enterprise data centres on their premises.


Cooling within the data centre is a fundamental function of the smooth and efficient operation, however, the cooling equipment is a major share of the cost within the CAPEX outlay.

A combination of energy efficiency measures and rising energy costs have resulted in companies searching for ways of lowering their PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) and operating costs. It is especially crucial for the colocation data centres. In particular Big Data companies have been criticised for their inefficiency which is seeing their adoption of newer technologies.


Main types of precision cooling used in data centres


Following amendments in the ASHRAE 2011 (still need to identify that relaxed temperature and humidity requirements for the Data Centres, the cooling segment of the data centre market is undergoing some dramatic changes and opened opportunities for a range of technologies).


Traditional close control (CRAC and CRAH) is still fit for purpose in many countries, however, it is gradually losing its share to newer technologies, especially evaporative cooling.


Evaporative cooling capitalises on the feature of water as a natural coolant when warm and dry air is being humidified allowing for significant savings in operating costs. Evaporative cooling can either utilise the pressurised or compressed water mist (evaporative system) or wetted pads media (adiabatic system).


It is also divided into direct (direct external air is allowed into the data hall) and indirect (when external air does not mix with the internal air within the data hall).


Lone Hansen, WMI Manager – IT Cable Group, BSRIA (pictured right), said: “One major downside with evaporative systems is that they consume water (which can itself be an issue if supplies are scarce) and the evaporative process can cause scaling of pipework and heat exchangers in high pressure systems. The products are more suitable for new build projects due to the space and height requirements, as they are mostly large units. The use of water also raises the issue of legionella, which needs to be given consideration in the design and operation of a facility.”


Close coupled solutions embrace a range of products, located close to the heat source: in-row, rack, rear door heat exchangers and overhead terminal units. These are intended to be more expensive and more suitable at higher densities racks.


Liquid (direct on-chip or immersion cooling) cooling is taking the water or other source of heat rejection (Novec 1230) directly to the server. Depending on application and the technology chosen the server equipment can be completely submersed into the coolant. However, there is still a certain stigma around liquids being at the heart of the IT equipment and it still remains a rather niche product, used only to deal with extremely high densities in HPC segment (_gt;35kW per rack).


What are the geographical differences in the use of technology?


Both the UK and the US are major data centre users sharing a similar profile for the choice of cooling technology used, however, it is believed that as more applications move to off-site data centres, operators will increasingly be looking for locations in low cost countries, this will drive the use of different technology used in these newer application.


The US accounts for approximately 40 per cent of the worldwide precision cooling market. It is the market with the largest share of the evaporative cooling, representing 26 per cent of the total market.




UK has traditionally been a big Data Centre market, being Europe’s main banking and financial centre. However, recently there has been a move to the cloud and IT companies that are now at the forefront of the Data Centre investment in the UK.


BSRIA Big data companies – industry game changers


With it being claimed that more data has be captured in the last 12 months than the previous 5,000 years, it is big Big Data companies/Cloud providers who are driving the biggest changes. The strategies they are employing for identifying the appropriate locations for their next data centres are not only defined by the cost saving strategies to capitalize on favorable tax regime but also colder climate, allowing them to maximise the use of free cooling.


Within EMEA the popular destinations for Big Data companies have been extended beyond Ireland into Nordics (Netherlands, Sweden, Finland), thus creating new data centres “hot spots” within EMEA. Big Data companies choose a variety of technologies to cool their data centres in a most energy effective way.


How cold is your data?


In June 2015 a study by Jonathan Koomey and Jon Taylor ‘New data supports finding that 30 percent of servers are ‘Comatose’, indicating that nearly a third of capital in enterprise data centres is wasted’ confirmed the view that a great deal of the servers inside the data centres is just consuming electricity while not being used or accessed in any way. The study concluded that the level of these servers, which are called comatose servers, is at 30 per cent of all the servers inside the data centres.


Lone Hansen added: “Identifying that the redundant and rarely accessed data in the public cloud comprise a large share, in 2013 Facebook separated the old data into the “cold storage” category. Cold storage can be defined as the retention of inactive data that an organisation or an individual rarely, if ever, expects to access. Previously it was believed to be necessary for the servers in data centres to be 'always on' to provide immediate access to users' data, but the servers in the cold storage facility are on 'sleep mode' and kick-start only when there is a request for access archived information.


The server, that stores such data is kept in the sleeping mode and does not require active cooling. It is only switched on, when the data request is sent to the server. There will be a certain delay in accessing data by the end-user but that slight delay is believed to be acceptable.


Facebook has devoted considerable attention to the hardware used for a cold storage system through the Open Compute Project that has been working on the improvements in the hardware systems used in Data Centres, including cooling. It led to adoption of direct evaporative cooling in the Facebook Data Centres and, following some teething problems in 2013, it has been implemented across an increasing number of their storage centres with improved control. In 2014 Facebook also presented the modular approach to cooling in the Data Centres through Open Compute, opening this technology for wider usage in the data centres.”



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