A short history and future of data center cooling
The modern data center as we know it today has evolved steadily over the years. The data center dates back as far as the 1940s when large military computer rooms were created to perform specific data tasks, and by the 1960s the mainframe computer was invented, marking the beginning of a significant change in the data landscape. Data centers have always required some kind of cooling solution, but as technology continues to rapidly evolve and demand increases, data centers are producing more heat and consuming more power. Trends in data center cooling have grown and changed along with the data center itself to meet demand and keep data centers running smoothly while consuming as little power as possible.
Although liquid immersion cooling has been in use since the 1960s, it has shifted in and out of popularity and efficiency. For the past fifty years, the most commonly used method of data center cooling has been raised floor cooling, employing a CRAC (Computer Room Air Conditioner) under a raised floor to constantly move cold air through the computer units. This cooling system worked well for a time when computer densities were relatively low and energy efficiency wasn’t a high priority. But as time went on, problems with this system became more obvious. Raised floor cooling uses high amounts of power and does not allow for even cooling, with units closer to the floor being cooled more efficiently than those at the top.
Advances in data center computing technology have made it necessary to develop improved cooling solutions to keep up. The recent development of cold aisle and hot aisle containment solutions prevent the cold and hot air in the data center from mixing, making cooling systems much more efficient. In row coolers and rear door coolers both allow for more precise and energy-efficient cooling than a CRAC system, and with variable fan speeds, energy outputs can be controlled to the exact level that is needed rather than running fans at a constant speed. Intelligent micro data centers for the user end are also a more recent phenomenon, with smart systems that manage their own temperature environments and cooling, requiring minimal intervention from technicians.
Finding the most energy-efficient cooling solution has been at the forefront of recent developments, to keep power usage low and ensure that data centers have a sustainable future. The future of data center cooling promises innovative solutions to minimise environmental impact and maximise productivity, such as the use of rain or sea water in water cooling systems, and the employment of AI and robots within the data center to analyse and manage cooling systems in real-time. Evidence also suggests that liquid immersion cooling may represent the most efficient cooling solution for mainstream data centers in the near future. At USystems we’re dedicated to providing data center solutions that are ready to keep up with technological innovations and reduce the impact on the environment, offering in row coolers, aisle containment solutions and much more to make sure your data center is ready for the future.