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June 22, 2023

Overcoming the Biggest Datacenter Challenges of 2023 

Taking on next-gen chips, dwindling resources, and calls for conscious consumption

Overcoming the biggest datacenter challenges.

As technological innovations enter new realms and countries crack down on water usage regulations, the million-dollar question surrounding the datacenter industry’s unprecedented growth is: is there enough supply to meet this demand?  

We assess the biggest challenges for datacenters in today’s world, covering the most pressing issues including the need to accommodate next-gen chips, the scarcity of essential resources, and the increasing demand for conscious consumption. We will delve into how immersion cooling can tackle these issues head-on and revolutionize the way we operate data centers.  

The Domino Effect of Growing Chip Power 

Challenge no.1 stems from the continuous next-level innovation within chips, which has led to the emergence of what is now a 400W chip and what will likely jump to 700W in the near future. 

Chip power, datacenter challenges
Source: Dell Technologies. Image: Submer

Of course, this provokes the need for a technology capable of accommodating the subsequent heat generation; with 40 years of innovation behind air cooling technology, it has reached its limit. This raises concerns about this technique and the future proofing of facilities. The logical next step to reaching the next level of efficiency has got to be leveraging different liquid cooling technologies.   

“Colocation players are trying to figure out how can they implement high density cooling technologies in their designs to avoid their buildings being outdated before they go online.”   

Daniel Pope, CEO at Submer 

Immersion cooling goes beyond the restrictions of traditional methods and solely supporting the kW chip. It’s a way of having room for innovation and the ability to accommodate higher thermal design powers (TDPs). What’s more, it brings massive efficiency regarding the mechanical PUE, by removing the need for chillers, fans, and the associated pains and costs of air cooling

A Lack of Resources 

This aforementioned growth makes finding adequate power, water, and supply chain resources critical. According to a study from the University of Colorado Riverside and the University of Texas Arlington in the US, ChatGPT consumes 500ml of water for every 20-50 questions.  

“Unless renewable energy usage increases, data centres could soon create more emissions than the entire aviation industry combined.”  

Datacentre Magazine

The restrictions regarding where and what types of datacenters can be built are tightening and high-power sites are hard to come by – not to mention that strict regulations often mean expansion is only granted if data centres have circular models in place.  

How can data centres be made more environmentally friendly?

Immersion cooling can be slotted into existing infrastructure, avoiding contributing to concrete’s environmental impact which makes up 8% of the world’s carbon emissions. It also densifies and compacts footprints by using 60% less space than traditionally built datacenters built – and as these datacenters get deployed closer to end users in cities that’s a big saving! Upgrade to more powerful servers and take up 60% less space than air cooling. 

Additionally, data centers are being presented with stringent regulations on water usage. They must ensure compliance while optimizing power usage and minimizing their environmental impact.  

“By 1 January 2025, new CNDCP data centres at full capacity in cool climates that use potable water will be designed to meet a maximum WUE of 0.4 L/kWh in areas with water stress.”    

Water News Europe

Immersion cooling plays a pivotal role in achieving almost zero water usage. At Submer, we’re on a mission to make waterless infrastructure more accessible across the globe and one of the ways we do so is by leveraging servers designed especially for immersion cooling from our partners. A perfect example of this is the immersion-born Ciara Trident systems from Hypertec; with over 250,000 cores cooled by immersion deployed in the field to date, Hypertec has been working closely with Submer since 2021 to develop high-density and sustainable immersion cooling solutions, demonstrating a strong commitment to innovation and sustainability leadership in the IT industry. 

Heat reuse is also making its way into regulations and more and more datacenters are exploring this option by the day.  

“Recapturing excess heat could power most of Europe, say experts.” 

The Guardian 

Conscious Consumption 

Society as a whole is becoming more conscious of the purchases we make, whether that’s buying an electric vehicle, or buying second-hand clothing, and datacenter end users are no exception. There’s been a huge generational change regarding how we used to build and operate data centres and what will be expected of them in the future. Hyperscalers are discovering that their end users and the local regulations driven by society are demanding more efficient infrastructure, renewable sources, zero water usage, circular modes for hardware, etc. In fact, 79% of customers say sustainability is a key factor in choosing a datacenter colocation provider. 

Datacenters are thus aiming to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Achieving this goal requires leveraging new technologies and making significant investments in sustainable infrastructure.  

Submer provides non-financial reporting and offers the additional benefit of heat capture, which creates new revenue streams for datacenters. By incorporating immersion cooling, datacenters can align with customer expectations and contribute to a sustainable future all at once.  

Datacenter Challenges: What’s Next? 

Silicon vendors are embracing and providing support and warranty for chips compatible with immersion cooling, including the latest generations from Sapphire Rapids and AMD’s genewatt platform debuted at Supercomputing. An increasing number of server OEMs and ODMs have immersion-ready and warrantied systems.  

The industry is moving towards standardization. At Submer, we’re carrying out fluid testing and verification in collaboration with the likes of Castrol and Shell, and more liquid vendors are following suit, contributing to this establishment of industry-wide standards.  

As the datacenter industry moves towards accommodating next-gen chips, mitigating resource shortages, and embracing conscious consumption, immersion cooling is being recognized as a game-changing solution. This technology rises to new challenges by ensuring higher efficiency, reduced environmental impact, and sustainable practices, and, at Submer, we’re paving the way for meeting the evolving needs of the industry and the planet.  

Looks like it’s time to take the plunge into immersion…