Datacenter Trends

Datacenters Are Cooling Down as Buildouts Heat Up

Tech giants Google, Apple and others are expanding their datacenter footprints at a rapid rate, and it's pushing the industry to find better ways to power all that infrastructure.

The datacenter cooling market is heating up again, which should come as no surprise to anyone watching this space.

Datacenter construction is surging; barely a day goes by without an announcement about a new or expanded facility somewhere. Google alone is set to build four new datacenters in the United States this year, with major expansions expected at three other facilities. That gives ABC's search engine giant a total of 13 U.S. datacenters, according to a recent blog post by Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

If cooling accounts for about a third of the total energy consumption of a typical datacenter, as many analysts conclude, a surge in this market was inevitable. But it's not just the overall expansion of the datacenter footprint that's driving the growth of the cooling market.

A recently published Grand View Research study concluded that rising pressure from local and federal government agencies, environmentalists and the general public on datacenter operators to implement green initiatives is a significant factor spurring growth in this market.

"Therefore, high demand for eco-friendly and cost-effective cooling solutions is expected to propel the market growth," the report states.

There's plenty of evidence to support this finding. For example, Greenpeace has been investigating the world's largest datacenter operators, accusing some of ignoring the environmental impact of all this growth. The organization recently called out Amazon Web Services (AWS), citing a lack of transparency around the operational details of the organization's large datacenter operations in Northern Virginia.

Datacenter operators are responding to this particular pressure with a variety of strategies. Apple, for example, relies on sustainable, eco-friendly power sources to cool its North Carolina datacenter facilities. It uses the free-air cooling technique, which allows the chillers to be off 75 percent of the time.

Free-air cooling, or simply free cooling, brings cool, outside air into the datacenter directly through filters, or indirectly through heat exchangers to supply cold water for the cooling system. The technique is both energy-efficient and less costly than other approaches.

Google has touted its "green datacenters," which minimize energy usage with the free cooling technique, but also by using intelligent temperature controls, measuring power usage effectiveness (PUE), managing airflow and "redistributing power rationally." Google made news a few years ago when it announced that it was cooling some of its datacenters with used toilet water.

The Grand View researchers expect the global datacenter cooling market to reach $20.7 billion by 2025, expanding at a CAGR of 13.5 percent. But the study also suggests that this growth could ultimately result in massive cost savings down the road. So-called sustainable cooling has the potential to cut energy costs for datacenter operations by more than 80 percent, the researchers concluded.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].


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