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'Cooling sector needs to up pace of development to match data centre changes" says expert

Faster development of new ideas needed as data hosting companies usher in shorter timescales for construction and independents seek innovations, says Data Centre Question Time panelist.

Geoff Fox, a panellist at RAC’s Data Centre Cooling Question Time this Friday, says he believes the cooling supply chain has got to raise its game.

The cooling supply chain needs to keep up with the pace of change in the data centre world, as the landscape has completely changed changed for the facilities ownes and operators said Geoff Fox, head of engineering at data centre operator Digiplex.

Mr Fox noted that originally large scale data centres were developed by corporate institutions for a 22/25 year business outlook, and used computer equipment that had a low tolerance to either high temperatures or the rate of change of temperature.

As a result, the cooling systems relied on “clunky heavy commercial office type solutions, chillers, pumps plate exchangers, more pumps and CRAC units.”

But as the computers and UPS technology have rapidly improved, cooling technology has struggled to keep up, Mr Fox contends.

He says that the changes in computer equipment technology has moved forward and the advent of Ashrae standards has opened the door to fresh thinking on how to cool the facilities.

“The industry has changed and the majority of large date centres are now run by colocation, or hosting companies, which have much shorter timescales in the contracts they win and ‘build as you grow’ investment models.

Customers are much more savvy about the cost of energy and they have realised that a couple of points off the PUE [Power Usage Efficiency Ratio] can make a huge difference to operating costs and therefore the bottom line.”  

Mr Fox warned that the effects of this are still being felt throughout the supply chain: “Due to the fact that consultants protecting their P+L are are not inclined to take risks, the smaller independent data centre operators are building the data centre of the future now.”

This will require the cooling industry to respond to a new set of rules, he believes: “Indirect evaporative cooling is mandatory; rain water harvesting is sensible and viable; modularity is compulsory; plant selection and design based on extreme and bin weather data is essential.”

And the technology needs to change too, he contends: “It’s time for the industry to wake up and start developing small, cross-flow evaporative heat exchangers using advanced materials and technology which have high thermal conductivity in both wet and dry operation, that can operate using low pressure ‘dirty’ water, are robust and self-cleaning, with a 20 year life.

It’s time for the data centre industry to take the lead in product/technology development and become the Formula 1 (in terms of product development) of the cooling industry.”

Mr Fox is going to be expanding on this theme at RAC’s Data Centre Question Time, taking place this Friday (28th) at RICS HQ in London (see attachment).

The free-to-attend event, sponsored by RDM, Airedale and Star Refrigeration, will have a host of data centre experts as panellists to discuss these and other cooling-related themes


Readers' comments (1)

  • There is company in India called Air Innovations, saw a youtube video of theirs, They make air to air cross-flow evaporative heat exchangers with wet side for DC Cooling. They'd designed a concept for pre cooling hot aisle air prior to sending it to CRAC units.

    Might be a good fit for design build companies.

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