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The Evolving Data Center: How Power, Cooling, and Standards are Driving Change
Keywords: Data Center, Thermal, Standards Evolving
Rising power consumption from the device to the rack/row and data center levels continue to stress data center power delivery and cooling systems. Rack power levels in the enterprise space, which have held steady at the 4 – 6 kW/rack level for many years, are readily pushing past 12 kW/rack and more. In the high performance computing (HPC) space, racks of 40+ kW are increasingly common. At the recent International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt (Germany), there was at least one 100+ kW rack on display, with a number of additional entities also discussing 100+ kW racks. The majority of data centers in existence today have been designed to accommodate 8 – 10 kW air-cooled racks. When rack power levels exceed these values, the data centers are forced to make changes in order to support these higher power levels, including using aisle containment, in-row coolers, and more floor tiles (or grate tiles). Adjustments to reasonably accommodate air-cooled racks in existing data centers can be made up to approximately 20 kW/rack, after which it becomes very challenging and expensive. In the HPC space, the race to achieve Exascale computing capability is pushing the limits on all fronts, including power and cooling. There seems to be an emerging consensus that in order to achieve 1 ExaFlop in a reasonably-sized data center, within a reasonable 20 MW data center power envelope, rack power levels of 100+ kW will have to be deployed. At these rack power levels, traditional power and cooling delivery systems will be challenged. On the power front high voltage DC delivery is increasingly being used, while on the cooling front, liquid-cooling is almost a given at 100 kW/rack. The data center is being forced to evolve, particularly in the HPC space. Finally, data center standards including ASHRAE 90.1, ASHRAE 90.4 and ATIS 0600031.2014 (telco) will result in data center changes as well. The presentation will address several of the major forces that are causing the data center to evolve.
Tahir Cader, Distinguished Technologist
Hewlett-Packard Company
Spokane, WA
USA


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