As climate change advances as a top concern globally, IT experts are pressed to discover more innovative ways to minimize the data centers’ impact on natural resources. The cooling process, which makes up 40 percent of the power consumed by data centers, is getting some of the most intense scrutiny.
According to the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey, office buildings with data centers use a significantly larger amount of energy than office buildings without them — primarily because of factors like cooling, electricity, and computing demands. Also, since data centers work 24/7, they demand consistent power. In many cases, the survey revealed, cooling electricity intensity in office buildings with data centers was nearly twice as much as those without data center functions.
Here are some cooling and efficiency innovations that have been implemented in recent years, pointing to some variations that could possibly lead to mainstream solutions.
Artificial Intelligence. Google has been using DeepMind technology to test artificial technology on resolving energy inefficiencies in its data centers. Early indications show that it’s working, with an overall power consumption reduction of approximately 40%.
Underwater data centers. Microsoft is also launching a project to reduce data center cooling costs, by going underwater. Project Natick, an underwater data center, makes use of ocean water to cool off the data center infrastructure. As with Google, the results are showing promise. The company is building another underwater data center.
Outdoor air cooling. Perhaps more accessible to the average data center, using outside air to cool data centers has been another approach to reducing energy dependence. Facebook has been using free cooling techniques with success. However, there are other companies that have cited concerns about contaminants getting into equipment when using this approach.
Other innovative approaches being testing include using water submersion for cooling. Microsoft tested the waters by placing a self-contained data center in the ocean. More practical cooling applications have included hot-aisle containment (HAC) and cold-aisle containment (CAC), which have led to reduced use of energy among numerous companies.