Chilean water crisis affects cooling systems at the data center level – Awdhesh

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According to the General Directorate of Water, the demand for water will increase by 5% by 2030 and 10% by 2040, a projection that will exacerbate the current water crisis, causing data center operators to debate about what type of cooling technology they should use in the next 10-15 years.

By Daniel DeVinatea

Santiago de Chile.- Historically, Chile has been a country rich in water resources, with an average of 55,640 cubic meters of water per person per year, according to the United Nations Environmental Group in Chile. Despite this, it has some areas where the indicator only reaches 1,169 cubic meters per person per year, a figure below the acceptable limits for sustainable development. This great drought has forced the country to generate considerable rationing during the last 10 years.

In addition to being a planning challenge for authorities, this situation presents new challenges for the design, construction and optimization of data centers, specifically in relation to cooling systems.

Thermal management remains a priority for critical infrastructure. Data center cooling systems are more important than ever; they handle an increasingly dense load due to the increasing heat generated by increasingly dense computing systems, which are necessary to support today’s data-intensive applications such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). ).

There are multiple options for data center cooling, depending on the heat load to be cooled, energy costs, available water and density, among other considerations. Popular options on the market range from waterless refrigerant-based Direct Expansion (DX) systems to water-intensive evaporative systems. Although water consumption allows for excellent energy efficiency, DX systems can achieve high energy efficiency without depleting local water resources.

In a water-scarce environment, the most important question data center operators need to ask is: What cooling technology should they use in the next 10-15 years?

To answer this question, operators must consider the availability of water and energy, and strike the right balance between the two. In water-scarce areas, this might mean using DX systems that do not consume water, while in other areas, using water- and energy-efficient free-cooling plants with an adiabatic pad system might be the answer. best solution.

The long-term strategy

In this context, there is an interesting debate between data center operators and Vertiv regarding their vision for the future.

Operators that focus on their initial investments and do not factor in risk variables and operating costs typically opt for technologies that only reduce costs in the short term. However, for planned growth and optimized design, there are a number of technologies that can equip an operation and grow capacity. These technologies are important both at the level of capital expenses and operating expenses and allow to take into account the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). TCO calculations are almost always more efficient if projected over time.

The switch to lithium-ion batteries is an excellent example of planning with a long-term energy efficient strategy in mind. Due to their chemical composition, lithium-ion batteries require less maintenance and have a higher power density than valve-regulated lead acid (VRLA) batteries, historically used in uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) for support electronic equipment in data centers. In addition, they have been estimated to last 2-3 times longer than VRLA batteries, reducing the need for replacements and reducing labor costs.

While the initial cost of lithium-ion batteries is higher than that of lead-acid batteries, their benefits typically include a lower TCO over a 5-year period. Compared to a 1500VA UPS with lithium-ion or VRLA batteries, the UPS with lithium-ion batteries offers savings of more than 40% in 6-8 years.

Energy efficiency is a factor that greatly influences this long-term strategy. One success story that reflects this comes from Santiago, Chile, where one of the largest IT providers in Latin America set a goal of reaching a PUE of 1.08 in its second data center. For this project, Vertiv had a team of mechanical and electrical engineers collaborate with this data center operator.

In addition to reducing electricity costs, the operator set out to reduce its carbon footprint. To achieve this, Vertiv recommended and implemented 3 cooling technologies: adiabatic coolingof free cooling Y mechanic. By using combined solutions, the equipment pre-cools the air, takes advantage of ambient humidity and balances the temperature of the cabinets, since it optimizes the hours of uniform and scheduled operation.

With heavy-duty, high-availability, energy-efficient cooling equipment designed for 24×7 operation, the operator realized energy savings of up to 40%. In addition, the new, energy-efficient power and cooling backup infrastructure enabled the operator to achieve Tier IV Certification from the Uptime Institute. With this achievement, the operator gained a competitive advantage in the market, becoming the second data center in Chile with this type of certification.

The lesson learned from this implementation is that planning begins with placement. As demand increases, Chilean data centers will need to learn how to take full advantage of the country’s environmental advantages, such as the ideal low temperature and humidity for energy efficient technologies. Additionally, planning should be based on your vulnerabilities, such as the availability and cost of water.

According to the General Directorate of Water, the demand for water will increase by 5% by 2030 and 10% by 2040, a condition that would worsen the water crisis. Naturally, the increase in demand can bring with it an increase in the rates of this public service.

Many operators are already looking at new and attractive regions of the Chilean geography as possible locations for their data centers beyond the metropolitan area. Technologies that increase efficiency, power and capacity for future growth will be critical to a more successful migration to these new locations. Working with a local infrastructure expert with a broad portfolio and vast knowledge of the region is a good way to develop this strategy.

Daniel De Vinatea is Sales Operations and Delivery & Execution Director for Vertiv LATAM

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