Insights from Thought Leaders Part 3: Rack Power Densities Rising, But Slowly

April 17, 2018

Chatsworth Products (CPI) recently participated in Data Center Frontier's Executive Roundtable. In part three of a four part blog series, Chatsworth Products (CPI) provides a summary of the discussion between Data Center Frontier and thought leaders in the industry as they discuss trends in server rack power density and what they mean for cooling.

Thought leaders were asked: 

"For some time we have seen predictions that rack power density would begin to increase, prompting wider adoption of liquid cooling and other advanced cooling techniques. What’s the state of rack density in 2018, and is density trending higher at all?"

"Rack density is growing slightly, but on average not to the levels served by direct liquid cooling...It is possible to cool a 30 kW rack with air in a system that uses containment with good seal and low leakage, so traditional perimeter cooling and other air-based systems are still very good options. Direct liquid a good solution for high-density compute applications and some containerized solutions. ...Compute power is increasing...So rack densities will probably not climb significantly, but the amount of compute power (utilization) per rack will...When AI takes off, expect extremely large and sustained loads on the data center and system. – Dennis VanLith, Senior Director of Global Product Management and one of the founders at CPI.

"...Large colocation facilities are being built out to accommodate somewhere in the range of 8 to perhaps 10kW/rack with provisions for up to 30kW/rack in select positions or zones. These facilities typically are air-cooled. We are seeing some enterprise facilities that are continuing to consolidate hardware, virtualize applications, and migrate to much higher density racks...These racks often are cooled with either pumped refrigerant or rear-door heat exchangers...Bottom line: Higher densities are coming – and with them alternative cooling technologies – but it will be a gradual evolution." – Jack Pouchet, VP of Market Development at Vertiv

"...We can fit so much more storage into so much less space than we could even a year ago, much less five years ago...That said, the amount and types of data that our customers are generating and using are growing at a similar or even greater pace...There are some limiting factors on how much density can be achieved...There will be greater efficiencies when we start to reduce the cooling needs, through the use of quantum computing...Quantum is going to be the part that really, really drives the exponential jump in the density of those racks." – Erich Sanchack, EVP of Operations at Digital Realty  

"Increased density is always desired, but it has a lot of headwinds in the form of physical constraints. These constraints in existing power and cooling infrastructure are hard to overcome. Also, it’s still only appealing to only a subset of tenants because liquid cooling usually requires more prescribed rack configurations. Finding ways to optimize the hardware in the racks...can drive density just as much as other more costly techniques. This ties into the AI data streams and identifying actionable data on usage and capacity as well."  – Jeff Klaus, General Manager of Intel Data Center Software Solutions

Careful airflow management through the use of containment systems allows several cooling system adjustments that can reduce overall cooling energy costs at any rack density. 

Download CPI's complimentary white paper to find out how implementing a complete containment system contributes to overall reduced cooling system energy costs in the data center and prepares your site for an anticipated increase in rack density. You can also click the following links to read part one and read part two of this series. 

Posted by Brittany Mangan, Digital Content Specialist at 4/16/2018

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