Rittal Blog

Liquid Cooling Solutions & Trends in the Data Center Space

April 14 2021 by Scott Meier


This post originally appeared on the Team LINX blog and has been republished with permission.

It’s likely no surprise to IT facilities managers that data centers, especially those for mission critical solutions, are incredibly energy-intensive buildings. In fact, according to energy.gov, compared to a commercial office building, a data center consumes 10 to 50 times the energy per floor space.

Much of a data center's energy consumption (some reports say 40%) is used to power cooling and ventilation systems that keep servers from overheating. And because high installation densities and information technologies continue to grow — thanks to 5G hyper connectivity, AI, virtual and augmented reality, IoT, and cloud computing — these costs will continue to rise.

Traditional heat removal methods (bringing cold air into a space and mixing with hot air to achieve the appropriate temperature) aren’t keeping pace with modern demands. Anything that can be done today to address tomorrow’s evolving data center needs should be explored.

The right cooling solution — especially liquid cooling — can help IT facilities managers efficiently handle the heat load in a data center. This article explores emerging technologies and offers possible solutions that are efficient and cost-effective at cooling.

Air Cooling or Liquid Cooling?

For decades, the popular way to cool IT equipment in nearly every deployment was an air-based system. HVAC equipment is relatively inexpensive and can handle low-density applications (footprints of <10kW). However, recent thinking among IT professionals has leaned toward liquid cooling, but why? Let’s quickly compare the two.

The two main methods of air-based cooling use either chilled water and a computer room air handlers (CRAHs) or a refrigerant-filled cooling unit and computer room air conditioners (CRACs). Air passes through the server, gets heated, and returns to the CRAH or CRAC to be cooled again.

Here are air-based systems’ main problems:

  • Energy costs are high (and getting higher)
  • Maintenance costs are high due to mechanical failure
  • Space needs are significant
  • Moisture and pollutants from these systems hurts hardware performance

Many IT professionals within data centers are trying new methods to solve their ongoing heat challenges. Developments in liquid cooling offer superior efficiency because liquids have a larger capacity for heat compared to air (water can carry about 3,500 times more heat than air). Liquid cooling is also cleaner, more targeted, and scalable.

Liquid cooling systems, also called “close-coupled” systems, bring heat removal within close proximity to servers. This local and direct targeting of the heat source provides precise monitoring and control.

Types of Liquid Cooling Solutions

In-Row Cooling — Using either water-based or direct expansion (which uses an environment-friendly, low-impact refrigerant), these cooling units are designed to cool one row of racks. Airflow paths are shorter than room-based cooling, and can be targeted — one row high-density applications, one row low-density — and IT cabinets are sealed so no cold air is wasted where it’s not needed.

In-Rack Cooling — Using rear-door heat exchangers or self-contained AC units, in-rack systems control climates in one or two server racks. Higher densities than in-row are possible because in-rack airflow paths are shorter and more precisely defined, reducing the fan power needed. Cooling capacity and redundancy are targeted to the needs of specific racks.

Direct-to-Chip Cooling — Liquid coolant is delivered directly to the chip through tubes, a very effective and efficient heat absorption solution. Two solutions are available: rear-door-air (RDA) saves rack and data center space, while in-rack Edge is available in air-cooled and water-cooled versions.

Immersion Cooling — Hardware is completely submerged in nonconductive, nonflammable dielectric fluid. Heated fluid turns to vapor, condenses, and returns to the fluid. Power consumption is less than traditional methods. Greater server densities are possible within the same installation space.

The Power of Partnerships

A true state-of-the-art data center isn’t built in a vacuum. Achieving cooling system efficiency, low operating costs, solid security/monitoring, scalability, and a future-proof facility requires trusted business partnerships. Leveraging the insights of industry experts allows IT facilities managers to take on today’s challenges while planning for the needs of their data centers tomorrow.

The LINX Mission Critical team works closely with IT managers from design through planning and estimating. The goal is always to deliver data center cabling solutions, multimedia systems, security, and in-building wireless systems that exceed expectations.

A valued partner of LINX, Rittal North America is a leading global supplier of liquid cooling products, cabinet infrastructure, and power distribution. Specifically, Rittal’s LCP DX 20 kW unit is an ultra-efficient, direct expansion liquid cooling solution that’s known for its maximum flexibility and innovative features.

Connect with a LINX Integrator for an expert onsite assessment of your data center.

Categories: Data Center Solutions, Climate Control

Scott Meier

Written by Scott Meier

Sr. Account Manager, Mission Critical, at LINX