2023 Data Center Changes and Trends
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Data center infrastructure is undergoing massive changes to keep pace with the influx of rapidly increasing cloud-based applications and services. As data center technology evolves, businesses are investing in new solutions to improve their IT infrastructure and the capacity of their on-premises computing environments. In 2023, the demand for denser data centers is expected to skyrocket as businesses seek to accommodate exponential growth in their computing and storage needs. In 2022, JetCool’s 2022 Data Center Trends: Liquid Cooling Adoption survey discovered that OEMs, ODMs, and SIs are investigating new cooling technologies to address the difficulties of cooling high-density racks, with 57% of respondents using or expecting to use liquid-cooled devices in their product roadmap in the next year. Uptime Institute substantiates these findings in their Q3 Uptime Institute Data Center Cooling Systems Survey 2021, stating, “direct liquid cooling may become the primary cooling method driven by rack density, electricity cost, and sustainability efforts.”
The increased density of data centers will enable businesses to handle larger workloads faster and more efficiently while reducing operational costs associated with running a larger IT environment. Additionally, denser data centers can expect improved reliability and scalability, helping businesses ensure that their IT investments remain viable for the long term. To support this higher concentration of computing power, businesses must be prepared to invest in new cooling solutions and energy efficiency measures to ensure optimal performance with minimum disruption. Let’s investigate the different liquid cooling solutions expected to surge in adoption in 2023.
How Liquid Cooling Can Help
Innovative liquid cooling technologies provide powerful solutions to support the ongoing data center infrastructure changes. Liquid cooling solutions have been exploited in the market to increase performance and decrease costs. However, as compute loads continue to densify, traditional liquid cooling technologies are reaching their limit. New liquid cooling technologies are needed to bridge the heat transfer gap enabling performance. Luckily, there are several innovative liquid cooling technologies circulating the market that address these performance and sustainability demands.
Direct-to-Chip Cooling Solutions
There are many different direct-to-chip liquid cooling technologies, however, all operate on the same premise – they target the chip directly with a heat transfer fluid. In comparison to legacy liquid cooling technologies that use liquid as an intermediary to provide cooling to air entering the rack, direct-to-chip cooling technologies use a heat transfer module (cold plate or heat sink) placed on the server board to directly cool the high-power rack components. Specifically, the cold plate or heat sink is attached directly to heat-intensive components such as CPUs or GPUs to distribute the heat transfer fluid or coolant to high heat emitting sections.
Generally, direct-to-chip liquid cooling methods allow enterprises to increase their overall cooling temperature. By increasing the coolant operating temperature, enterprises can potentially eliminate the need for cooling towers or chillers. The elimination of chillers and cooling towers decreases water waste and energy consumption and, by extension, operating costs. This traditional form of liquid cooling has been advanced to address hyperscale computing and dense workloads. Let’s learn more about advanced direct-to-chip liquid cooling solutions.
Microchannel Liquid Cooling
One innovative liquid cooling solution is microchannel liquid cooling. Microchannel cooling implements a form of direct-to-chip liquid cooling that uses cold plates to directly target CPUs, GPUs, or other memory modules. Simply put, microchannel cooling operates on a heat-spreading premise. Specifically, microchannel cold plates (sealed metal plates) spread the heat generated in the device into small internal fluid channels that can be removed by a flowing coolant. The heat spreading technique provides a high cooling surface area, while the small fluid channels promote intimate interaction between the coolant and the heated surface. Channels may be skived, pin fin, or machined channels in nature. Because they are closed cold plates, most microchannel solutions require a thermal interface material (TIM2) to be applied when attaching to a heat-generating component.
In short, the enhanced area and intimate fluid contact with the cold plate structure allow for high heat removal: however, the thermal interface material can sometimes be a limiting thermal resistance layer as thermal design power (TDP) reaches peak performance levels.
Microconvective Liquid Cooling
Another new innovative form of direct-to-chip liquid cooling is microconvective liquid cooling. Created and coined by JetCool, microconvective liquid cooling technology aims to further enhance current liquid cooling systems to enable improved performance for applications with the densest compute profiles.
Microconvective cooling uses concentrated arrays of small fluid jets to bring coolant directly to the surface of the heat-generating device. This creates high effectiveness turbulent flow where the heat is being generated. In contrast to typical parallel flow configurations found in microchannel solutions, microconvective cooling facilitates perpendicular flow onto the device, which increases the heat transfer coefficient for heat removal. Because direct coolant contact occurs on the device’s surface, thermal interface materials are eliminated. As a result, high heat fluxes can be managed easier due to the minimized thermal resistance. This technique can handle the highest TDP processors on the market, allowing data center integrators to future-proof their data center systems.
Integrated into a liquid cold plate design, microconvective cooling® can bridge the gap between air and liquid cooling with a liquid-assisted air-cooling solution, SmartPlate System. This solution offers enterprises the benefits of liquid cooling without the hassle or expenses of traditional liquid cooling migrations. For more advanced liquid cooling, enterprises can deploy SmartLid, our liquid-to-die solutions that removes all thermal pastes and TIMs. Microconvective liquid cooling is easily customizable for your specific cooling journey and needs.
Learn more about JetCool’s microconvective liquid cooling solutions for data centers here.
Immersion Cooling Solutions
Immersion cooling, sometimes called liquid submersion cooling, is the practice of submerging data center hardware in a thermally conductive liquid bath. As a result, the liquid bath covers all components on a server board directly transferring the heat via the fluid. This technique is efficient because the heat transfer fluids have a higher heat capacity than typical ambient air surroundings. Of course, it’s important that the heat transfer liquid has low electrical conductivity to ensure there are no electrical failures or short circuits. Consequently, heat transfer fluids are typically a form of mineral oil, fluorocarbon-based fluids, or synthetic oil. Although these heat transfer fluids are an improvement over traditional air-cooled systems, immersion coolants are unable to match the thermal performance of water-based coolants used in direct-to-chip liquid cooling, which can limit the processor TDP in immersion systems. To learn more about the properties of heat transfer fluids, check out our blog post here.
Two-Phase Immersion Cooling
This cooling solution is an extension of single-phase immersion cooling described above. In single-phase liquid cooling, the fluids remain in its liquid form during the entire cooling process, elevating in temperature as they remove heat from heat-generating devices. Meanwhile, in two-phase immersion cooling, the coolant changes its state of matter. As the heat transfer fluid heats up to boiling point, heat is removed by latent heat transfer; liquid converts into gas instead of raising the surrounding coolant temperature. Simply put, this method utilizes phase change as a form of heat extraction, which can offer higher local heat fluxes and lessen the pumping infrastructure requirements. While fairly new, this cooling technology is gaining some market traction. As of April 2021, Microsoft is testing two-phase immersion liquid cooling on a hyperscale Azure data center.
Considerations for Immersion Cooling
Many industries that need hyperscale data centers or computing are considering a large-scale infrastructure transition to immersion cooling. However, there are some practical considerations to keep in mind when considering immersion cooling methods.
Modified Hardware. Since immersion cooling fully submerges data center hardware into a heat transfer fluid, the hardware often requires modifications to allow for high reliability, long lifetime operation. For example, many immersion systems move away from the vertically stacked rack configuration, flipping the rack onto its side before submerging in a bath with a horizontal form factor.
Complex Installation. While immersion cooling has its benefits for large-scale implementation, there are many parts that must be installed for successful cooling. Depending on the company, installation of immersion cooling can include tanks, fluid, pumps, chillers, filters, piping, sensors and more.
Overall, data centers are undergoing many changes as they prepare for the increase in compute loads and demands. As processor performance continues to advance, devices and servers will need more efficient, intuitive systems to fulfill projected growth rates. Luckily, several liquid cooling solutions can help growing enterprises bridge this gap between supply and demand. As the sustainability trend sweeps through the compute market, liquid cooling solutions offer a helping hand to high-waste enterprises. In fact, most liquid cooling solutions empower enterprises to meet market demands while remaining environmental conscious and responsible. All in all, liquid cooling solutions provide promising solutions to address the changes in the data center market.
 Chamoli, D. (2022b, December 5). Top Technology Trends Transforming Data Centers in 2023. Sagenext Blogs. https://www.thesagenext.com/blog/technology-trends-transforming-data-centers
 Miller, R. (2022, January 10). The Eight Trends That Will Shape the Data Center Industry in 2022. Data Center Frontier. Retrieved December 20, 2022, from https://www.datacenterfrontier.com/edge-computing/article/11427678/the-eight-trends-that-will-shape-the-data-center-industry-in-2022