Research Hub > Data Centers and Climate Change

February 24, 2023

5 min

Data Centers and Climate Change

Businesses need to ensure their data centers can withstand the effects of climate change – from record-breaking temperatures to unexpected outages and changing weather patterns across the globe.

CDW Expert CDW Expert

It’s no surprise we’re generating more data than ever before in today’s digital world. The internet of everything has changed the way we store data. Everything we do online, from liking a post to googling a question, is stored somewhere. Although mega data centers have proven beneficial, they can run hot and require constant power. Businesses need to ensure their data centers can withstand the effects of climate change – from record-breaking temperatures to unexpected outages and changing weather patterns across the globe.

Learn how CDW Amplified Services can help future-proof your data center in today’s changing climate.

Ensure Data Center Resiliency

When extreme temperatures hit the UK last summer, Google’s Cloud data centers went offline. This not only affected those near the center but customers in the US and Pacific regions as well. These outages limited access to Google services for hours. Oracle also experienced outages in the US and chalked it up to “unseasonal temperatures.”

Last summer’s heat wave foretells what’s to come, meaning companies need to adapt and prepare for a new normal. According to a survey by the Uptime Institute, 45% of US data centers experienced extreme weather events that hindered their ability to operate. As tech companies contend with a drastically changing climate, resiliency is vital. Preparing for natural disasters will help you prevent downtime in the future. Investing in power and cooling technologies is one way to help keep operations running even when disaster strikes.

As much as half of the electricity guzzled by data centers can go into powering outdated air-cooling systems rather than powering the servers themselves. Storing servers and networking equipment in a confined space can increase power costs and even damage equipment. Be sure to use ample ventilation, rack cooling fans, and air conditioners to protect your investment.

To keep your data center running, you need a power and cooling plan that meets your demands. The right approach can protect both your organization’s infrastructure and productivity in the event of equipment failure, power outages, or other disruptions. At CDW, we offer designs to address the power and cooling needs of leading converged infrastructure solutions:

Comprehensive Power Solutions:

  • Uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) allow you to regulate your power flow and adjust it as your needs change. They also serve as battery backups in case of an outage.
  • Modular power distribution units (PDUs) simplify configuration and support rapid power distribution for network expansion.
  • Intelligent power distribution units combine power distribution with remote monitoring to quickly alert you to any irregularities in power, humidity, or temperature.

Flexible & Powerful Cooling Resources: Your cooling infrastructure should be flexible enough to handle the increasing power and rack density of your data center. It should also be scalable for the future growth of your business.

Smart Management Software: Having easy access to resource usage, operational status and the overall health of your data center is critical. This information will allow you to strike the perfect balance between data center availability and efficiency.

Liquid Cooling Technology

To remain functional, data centers need to be assembled in cold climates. Building data centers in northern climates could be one way to avoid the heat. But developers would find themselves fighting over a dwindling pool of possible sites.

Liquid cooling technology offers a more practical solution. Although data centers currently rely on air-based cooling, liquid cooling might be a better way to keep temperatures down. It's a more efficient cooling system because it can be installed on specific data center devices that need it the most. Because it requires a combined knowledge of cooling and IT equipment, not many businesses have transitioned to liquid cooling.

Liquid cooling falls into two broad categories:

Immersion cooling: IT equipment is fully submerged in a dielectric liquid. The fluid absorbs the heat emitted by the device, turns it into vapor, and condenses it to cool down the device.

Direct-to-chip liquid cooling: Flexible tubes bring nonflammable dielectric fluid directly to the processing chip or motherboard component generating the most heat, such as the CPU or GPU. The fluid absorbs the heat by turning into vapor, siphoning the heat away from the equipment through the same tube.

Liquid cooling has gained traction because traditional cooling doesn’t provide enough support for high-performance computing. These methods prove to be more efficient in rejecting the heat from IT equipment compared to air-based systems. Some businesses are adopting liquid cooling systems, but it goes without saying, there are costly challenges.

Unless a new data center is being built in a new building, liquid cooling is an expensive proposition. Plumbing would need to be added to server racks along with other liquid-cooling specific construction. Because these tactics would be in response to potential issues during a small percentage of the year, companies are not rushing to adopt liquid-cooling solutions.

It may only be a 10 degree increase now. However, we cannot predict the future, so disregarding a fail-safe would be risky. Extreme heat and cold can keep equipment from operating at peak efficiency. Explore cost-efficient and cost-effective cooling technologies at CDW that make sense for your data center needs.

Data Centers & Our Environment

In past years, climate activists have harped on automotive and aviation energy emissions. The technology and communications sectors, however, are on track to generate more carbon emissions than the rest. With approximately 62% of the world’s electricity supply coming from burning fossil fuels, electricity production generates the second-largest share of greenhouse gas emissions (US EPA).

The severity of impact depends on how efficiently the data center runs. For example, there are some cooling systems that use toxic coolants with global warming potential (GWP). This is in sharp contrast to liquid cooling systems like Green Revolution cooling that use environmental-friendly materials.

It's evident that companies will start to be held environmentally accountable. Climate change discourse has pushed Google, Microsoft, and Amazon to move towards greener data centers that use renewable energy and more efficient cooling technology.

With high-performance computing on a steady rise, we’ll see data centers using more resources especially at the edge. Speak with a CDW expert today to see what solutions best meet the needs of your future data center goals.

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