For years, data center power and cooling requirements remained relatively stable, enabling organizations to plan for the facility’s 10- to 15-year lifespan. Data centers were able to support IT growth and technology refreshes without the need for major upgrades.
However, the models traditionally used for data center planning are being outpaced by radically changing requirements. Organizations can no longer rely on rules of thumb when designing, retrofitting, or upgrading their facilities. They need to collect and analyze power and environmental data in order to make effective long-term decisions. Data center infrastructure management (DCIM) tools and the right partnerships can help organizations prepare for changing power and cooling demands.
Servers are increasingly powerful, with chips that require more electricity. The latest server processors from Intel consume up to 400W, compared to 150W a decade ago. Even with alternative chips (RISC vis CISC for example), which may consume equal power for higher core/thread counts, densification within the rack increases, which still leads to higher power consumption. Furthermore, product roadmaps call for increasing power consumption, with the potential for servers to have 1+kW power demands within a few short years.
At the same time, rack power densities are also increasing — and not only because organizations are packing more gear into racks, but also further stratifying the gear using modular chassis and blade servers. The adoption of artificial intelligence, big data analytics and other advanced applications is driving the implementation of more high-powered services. For years, average rack power densities have hovered in the 6kW to 8kW range, but the number of high-power racks has been steadily increasing. Many data centers now have racks of 20kW or more.
Of course, where there’s more power, there’s more heat. Data centers must either deliver the air flow needed to cool high-density racks, or look at emerging technologies such as Rear-Door Heat exchangers, or even liquid subversive cooling. Furthermore, high-performance servers require lower temperatures to prevent the loss of processor performance, which in turn means increased loads on data center infrastructure up the power and cooling chains.
Older data centers simply weren’t built to handle these kinds of power and cooling requirements. Many facilities will need costly electrical and cooling upgrades to support more powerful systems. Given the accelerating pace of change, however, it will be difficult to predict data center power and cooling requirements several years into the future, outside of the simple fact more will be required.
This creates significant business risk. If the data center cannot meet the demands of the IT infrastructure, organizations will have wasted their investments in advanced systems or have a data center that’s severely limited or even obsolete. If the data center is built to accommodate more power and cooling than needed, the organization risks overspending on capacity and losing the value of underutilized space.
In addition, organizations are finding it difficult to meet their efficiency and sustainability objectives. Increasingly stringent regulations and reporting requirements are also putting pressure on data center operators to improve energy efficiency.
Some larger data centers are looking at things like liquid cooling to control heat while maximizing performance. However, liquid cooling systems can consume vast amounts of water, making them unsuitable for some facilities. Subversive-cooling alternatives can offset water utilization concerns but may introduce unintended concerns regarding the environmental impacts of the liquids used to immerse the data center equipment in and how to recycle/dispose of them when exhausted.
In short, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Organizations need to carefully analyze their power and cooling requirements at various points within the data center facility in order to anticipate future needs.
DCIM solutions monitor the data center environment and capture the energy consumption of the facility’s infrastructure and IT equipment as well as real-time environmental conditions. These tools can also provide a virtual 3-D view of the data center, making it possible to visualize the interrelationships between assets in order to better understand capacity-related data. IT teams can use these tools to assess the existing data center infrastructure and predict how changes or additions will impact efficiency and performance. In addition, modern DCIM tools provide a variety of robust instrumentation and dashboards which provide real-time environmental and power telemetry to data center operators with a few clicks or taps.
While DCIM tools are valuable, there’s no substitute for the expertise of an experienced partner. Rahi has designed and implemented infrastructure for large data centers worldwide. Through our ELEVATE Services for Data Centers, we can assess your business needs and technical requirements, develop a customized design, oversee the implementation process, and provide 24×7 monitoring and support. Let us help you prepare your data center for changing power and cooling requirements.
Let our experts design, develop, deploy and manage your requirements while you focus on what's important for your business