Data Center Innovation Remains Fast Paced18 min read
When you consider that data centers will provide the vast bulk of the underlying infrastructure to support AI workloads, it is no wonder that innovation has accelerated as of late. Here are a few of the recent highlights:
More Affordable Liquid Cooling
LiquidStack announced a range of coolant distribution units (CDUs) designed for direct-to-chip (DTC). They deliver 800kW to 1.5MW of heat rejection. The management and monitoring capabilities of LiquidStack CDUs favor AI, high-performance computing (HPC), and cloud computing applications. They feature smart logic controls, concurrently serviceable variable speed pumps, bypass and isolation valves, flow metering and fluid temperature and pressure sensors. The company believes the future lies in combined air and liquid cooling.
“There is no one liquid cooling solution that will fit every need or application, as data centers must factor in their location, workloads, sustainability goals, budget, and other considerations,” said Nick Schweissguth, Director of Product Management, LiquidStack. “Many data centers will be taking a hybrid air and liquid cooling approach for the foreseeable future.”
This announcement comes on the heels of the company’s unveiling of its single-phase liquid cooling technology as part of its DataTank product portfolio. The idea is to offer data centers an economical option to shift from air cooling to immersion cooling. It provides more than 2.8kW/U and uses non-hazardous dielectric fluids.
CXL Memory Pooling
Compute Express Link (CXL) is a new server interconnect that allows memory in different servers to be pooled and shared by expanding capacity to petabytes, making memory performance, availability, security, and mobility composable. This advance has led to a flood of CXL-compatible processors, memory chips, switches, expanders, and software flooding onto the market.
Telemetry, tiering, and pooling software, for example, has been developed by MemVerge. The company recently showcased 2 TB of pooled CXL memory in partnership with Samsung, H3 Platform, and XConn. Components include a Samsung 256 GB CXL Memory Module, an XConn XC50256 CXL Switch with 32-ports that can be bifurcated into 256 lanes with a total of 2,048GB/s switching capacity, H3’s 2 TB Pooled CXL Memory System, and MemVerge Memory Machine X software that dynamically provisions applications with memory as well as providing a heat map of memory capacity and bandwidth usage by app. The system addresses performance challenges faced by distributed AI/ML applications such as spilling memory to slow storage when main memory is full, excessive memory copying, I/O to storage, serialization/ deserialization, and out-of-memory errors that can crash an application.
“Modern AI applications require a new memory-centric data infrastructure that can meet the performance and cost requirements of its data pipeline,” said Charles Fan, CEO and co-founder of MemVerge.
Targeting Hot Spots
Roughly 40% of data center energy consumption is used up in cooling and managing hot spots. Trane’s new In Server Row Solutions addresses this issue with flexible temperature controls for either a direct expansion (DX) computer room air conditioner (CRAC) or a chilled water (CW) computer room air handler (CRAH). Both support open-, hot-, and cold-aisle applications. In an open aisle configuration, the units draw hot air from the external environment or hot aisle, remove the heat, and supply cooled air to the front of the IT equipment in the cold aisle. For hot aisles, exhaust air is captured from IT equipment to prevent it from mixing with cool air. For cold aisles, the units draw hot air from the external environment, remove the heat, and supply cooled air back into the cold aisle, where it is contained to prevent it from mixing with hot air.
Data Center Batteries
Vertiv DynaFlex battery energy storage system (BESS) includes lithium-ion batteries to provide standby energy for the data center and transitions between energy sources. It provides flexibility in the use of utility power. It allows data centers to implement hybrid power systems that include solar, wind, hydrogen fuel cells, and other forms of alternative energy. Lithium-ion batteries offer fast, repeated transitions between energy sources.
According to Omdia’s Market Landscape: Battery Energy Storage Systems report, “Enabling BESS to interact with the smart electric grid is an innovative way of contributing to the grid through the balance of energy supply and demand, the integration of renewable energy resources into the power equation, the reduction or deferral of grid infrastructure investment, and the creation of new revenue streams for stakeholders.”
When paired with the optional Vertiv DynaFlex EMS (Energy Management System), DynaFlex BESS offers better energy demand management and sharing, as well as the ability to sell energy back to the grid. The system’s power conversion system (PCS) supports two-millisecond output. Paired with an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system, it reduces the risk of data center outages and diesel generator starts.
“Concerns about operational resilience and growing stress on the grid have limited efforts to adopt alternative energy sources,” said Peter Panfil, vice president, global power, Vertiv. “BESS opens the energy management toolbox.”
AI and Energy Efficiency
Each of these innovations, and many more to come, address one or both of two key drivers – AI workloads and energy efficiency. Intense demand for AI capabilities – and the dueling pressures to reduce energy consumption, costs, and greenhouse gas emissions – loom large over the data center industry heading into 2024.
“AI and its downstream impact on data center densities and power demands have become the dominant storylines in our industry,” said Vertiv CEO Giordano Albertazzi.
Expect, therefore, many more data center breakthroughs in the near term to address cooling, energy efficiency, and AI.
Real-time monitoring, data-driven optimization.
Immersive software, innovative sensors and expert thermal services to monitor,
manage, and maximize the power and cooling infrastructure for critical
data center environments.
Real-time monitoring, data-driven optimization.
Immersive software, innovative sensors and expert thermal services to monitor, manage, and maximize the power and cooling infrastructure for critical data center environments.
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