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Business

Water, water everywhere, but every drop for cooling

In my dream life, I am a marine biologist. (I attribute this partly to being a water sign horoscope-wise and partly to childhood summers spent living in lakes and pools.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

In my dream life, I am a marine biologist. (I attribute this partly to being a water sign horoscope-wise and partly to childhood summers spent living in lakes and pools. ‘Mom, what do you mean I have to get out and dry off?!’)

So, I’ve always been curious about the role that water cooling might play in data center redesign. Especially since it has always seemed odd to think about water running though all that circuitry. But since consolidation projects are creating higher-density design situations, and this is certainly a hot topic (pun intended) and rather timely, what with the Environmental Protection Agency’s report to Congress last month on data center power usage.

The stats in that report are rather astounding.

First off, the EPA reports that data centers ate up an estimated 60 billion kilowatt-hours in 2006, or about 1.5 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption. The EPA estimates that this usage will almost double by 2012. HOWEVER, it also believes that existing technology that calls upon green technology design principles could help cut the energy use for an average server by 25 percent. And that's not counting what may come.

It was a no-brainer, then, when systems integrator Dimension Data reached out to talk about various data center design best practices that might be described as “green.”

So, I chatted up Kris Domich, principal for DiData’s data center consulting services. His take on the water debate is that even though water can move roughly 35 times the heat than air, this approach isn’t for everyone.

For one thing, the retrofit to accommodate water could be costly, especially if the facility in question doesn’t already have a chiller available. “The average corporate data center doesn’t have this luxury. They are not in the business of running data centers and the water isn’t really answer near the equipment,” Domich says.

More likely, then, that you’ll see co-location and hosting facilities investing in water as an option for their high-density areas.

The challenge with water is that once it does its job, it has to be cooled off somehow, thus the need for chillers. Facilities also need to think through where to direct the water afterward. Back into the system? Back into a reservoir after the proper treatment? So many choices! The fact is, air cooling can only do so much.

Anyway, here are some information resources for you on the water-cooling debate. I know these resources are vendor-focused but will give you a grounding point for more study, if you want to think through your options related to water.

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