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Liquid Cooling as Irreversible Trend of the Future.
There has long been the expectation that rack power densities would reach levels unsupportable by air cooling. Until recently, those expectations have been overly optimistic, as densities did not rise as quickly as expected. Nevertheless, those expectations triggered significant research and development (R&D) into solutions that could support extremely high rack densities, most notably conductive cold plate and immersive liquid cooling.
As data centers continue to push the limits of processing power, the need for effective cooling solutions becomes increasingly important. Traditionally, air cooling has been the go-to method for dissipating heat generated by server equipment. However, with the rise of high-density server architectures, air cooling is no longer able to keep up with the demands of modern data centers. This has led to a growing trend towards liquid cooling as a more efficient and effective method of thermal management.
Newer generation CPUs and GPUs have much higher thermal power densities than previous architectures, creating a need for more effective cooling solutions. Additionally, server manufacturers are packing more computing power into each rack unit, further increasing the thermal demands placed on cooling systems. While spreading compute loads out is one potential solution, this is not always feasible due to latency challenges, especially in processing-intensive applications.
The rise of artificial intelligence and high-performance computing beyond traditional scientific applications is also contributing to the need for liquid cooling. As these technologies are deployed in data centers supporting cloud-based HPC, finance, online gaming, healthcare, film editing, animation, and media streaming, the demand for high-density equipment racks is increasing.
This trend is driving changes in data center design. New data centers are being designed with liquid cooling as the primary method of thermal management, creating more efficient and compact facilities. Other data centers are being designed with both air and liquid cooling infrastructure to allow for future flexibility. Existing data centers are also integrating liquid cooling solutions, often transitioning some of the cooling capacity from air to liquid.
While each of these scenarios requires different solutions, working closely with a knowledgeable infrastructure partner with expertise in data center thermal management can help identify the most effective approach. With the inevitability of rising rack densities and increasing thermal demands, liquid cooling is becoming a necessary element of modern data center design.
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