Cooling is one of the hottest trends in data centers today. This is poised to continue through 2024 and beyond, as data center operators look for new ways to improve the efficiency of the cooling systems they already have in place or upgrade to more innovative cooling solutions.
Here's a rundown of the top data center cooling trends to look out for in 2024:
1. Expanded Adoption of Immersion Cooling
Immersion liquid cooling, which means submerging IT equipment in non-conductive liquid to dissipate heat, is among the most effective and reliable ways to cool data centers today.
Unfortunately, immersion cooling is also one of the most expensive types of cooling solutions for data centers, especially when businesses attempt to retrofit it into facilities that were designed for more traditional cooling systems.
The ongoing boom in data center construction means that a growing number of data center operators have the option of installing immersion cooling in new facilities, a more feasible approach to leveraging this technology. As brand-new data centers continue to appear in 2024, expect more of them to feature immersion cooling systems.
2. Increased Use of Direct-to-Chip Cooling
For existing data centers where retrofitting immersion cooling systems is cost-prohibitive, the next best thing is to adopt direct-to-chip cooling.
This method circulates liquid to the components within IT equipment that generate the most heat. It's substantially more efficient than cooling equipment using air, but it's less disruptive and costly to install than immersion cooling, making it a great solution for businesses that want to upgrade their cooling systems without a large-scale facility overhaul.
3. Investment in Quieter Cooling
Cooling systems can be among the loudest components within data centers. Compressors and fans make a lot of noise, which can hamper the working environment for personnel inside data centers as well as for people who live or work nearby.
More data center operators appear to be recognizing this fact. Some may turn in response to liquid immersion cooling, which is the quietest type of data center cooling system.
But even for data center operators who aren't prepared to invest in immersion cooling, making simple changes to optimize airflow can help reduce the noise generated by traditional cooling systems.
4. Cooling System Optimizations
Airflow optimization is just one of the ways to make data center cooling systems more efficient without having to rebuild them or replace them with more expensive alternatives.
Other methods include practices like updating data center roofing surfaces, which can increase cooling system efficiency by reducing the amount of ambient heat that enters data centers due to sun exposure, or updating data center floor designs to improve the circulation of cool air.
Expect to see increased focus on practices like these in 2024, as data center operators look for cost-effective ways to make cooling systems more efficient.
5. More Cooling System Monitoring
Monitoring of cooling systems goes hand-in-hand with cooling optimizations. The more data you have about which parts of your facility are (or aren't) being cooled efficiently, the better positioned you are to make changes that will improve results.
That's why the increased deployment of sensors that can monitor temperatures and (where applicable) airflow inside data centers is likely to become a data center trend in the new year.
Instead of simply monitoring the temperature of the server room as a whole, data center operators are likely to invest in sensors that can monitor individual racks, servers, or even specific server components so that they know when cooling systems are not operating effectively.
6. Experimental Cooling Strategies
Last but not least on the list of data center cooling trends to watch in 2024 is ongoing adoption of experimental strategies that could theoretically unlock major cooling efficiencies, even if they're not yet mature enough for widespread use.
Examples in this vein include underwater data centers, a concept in which Microsoft has already dabbled. Likewise, deploying data centers in space could eventually become a common practice. Both strategies change the game with regard to cooling because data centers located underwater or in outer space exist in environments where ambient temperatures are much lower, making it easier to dissipate heat efficiently.
In short, expect data center cooling innovations during 2024 to focus on new methods for increasing the efficiency of cooling systems – whether that means converting to new types of cooling technology, like immersion and direct-to-chip, or simply optimizing the operations of more traditional cooling systems.
Data center operators who like to live at the cutting edge of innovation may continue to experiment with fundamentally new strategies, like data centers deep in the ocean or in space, that could eventually bring unprecedented levels of efficiency to cooling.