The region is literally too hot for cost-effective, sustainable operations unless DC operators integrate three pain points and counter-strategies in stride.

Within the Data Center (DC) ecosystem the significance of meeting ambitious sustainability goals has become increasingly apparent. We only need to take a look at the Paris agreement, where global commitments were made to cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2030, and achieve Net Zero emissions by 2050.

The most important consideration then becomes, how can we make a substantial, positive impact in addressing sustainability challenges?

To meet sustainability targets, we need a combination of innovative technology; the ability to implement it; and execution on a wide-enough scale to achieve the impact required.

We can break this down into the following considerations: sustainability, serviceability, and scalability.

Dr Kelley Mullick, Vice President of Technology Advancement and Alliances, Iceotope

The South-east Asia situation

The International Energy Agency has found that energy demands in South-east Asia have risen by an average of 3% per year over the past two decades, with this trend expected to continue until 2030 —  under current policy settings.

It is clear (especially over the next decade) that implementing sustainability, serviceability, and scalability initiatives in the region’s data center industry is imperative.

    • Sustainability in the tropics

      Compared to air-cooling alternatives, liquid cooling technologies demonstrate superior effectiveness. These traits can be attributed to their notably higher heat transfer coefficient and heat capacity.

      • The heat transfer coefficient, which gauges the efficiency of heat movement from an object to its surroundings based on temperature disparities, plays a pivotal role in minimizing temperature fluctuations and hotspots. Consequently, it ensures consistent performance and mitigates the risk of hardware malfunctions.
      • An additional advantage of liquid cooling technology is the elimination of the need for server fans, resulting in reduced noise levels and energy consumption.
      • Encouragingly, data centers that traditionally rely on air cooling can smoothly transition to precision liquid. Among liquid cooling technologies, those that combine superior performance with sustainability tend to offer better long-term investment returns, especially in SEA’s tropical climates.

    • Serviceability in arid climates

      The operational efficiency of IT equipment remains a critical consideration for data centers today. Nonetheless, certain liquid cooling systems are more cumbersome to service than others.

      In the past, operators of large-scale data centers strategically selected their locations based on various factors, including demand, affordable electricity, and access to resources like land and water, enabling them to effectively utilize air cooling technologies. In hot and arid climates such as those in the region, liquid cooling is proving to be a more sustainable solution.

      Nevertheless, liquid cooling solutions have to competitive in terms of consistency, reliability and overall serviceability — in terms of efficiency, hardware lifespan, spatial footprint, and being future-proof in tropical climates.

    • Making an impact at scale

      Globally, considerable investments (reaching billions of dollars) have been allocated to expand the capacity of air-cooled data centers to meet scalability requirements.

      For some liquid cooling solutions, special modifications may also be needed to expand the scale: for example, the reinforcement of floor structures. This means some existing data centers may not be readily suitable for such modifications.

      Data center operators can solve this type of problems by:

      • Integrating and developing a supply chain that supports liquid cooling, and prioritizing material compatibility and dependability active involvement in endeavors to establish standards and research, including the Open Compute Project, which has outlined the essential criteria for fluids and IT equipment.
      • With better standards defined, the supply chain can expedite the uptake and integration of liquid cooling technologies, thereby facilitating smooth assimilation and fostering widespread acknowledgment within the industry.

When data center cooling is enhanced, easily and preemptively maintained, with significant cost reductions at scale, such benefits will have a ripple effect that fosters the accelerated uptake of wider sustainability goals.