Emerging Trends in Data Center Technology: The Rise of Large-Scale Liquid Cooling Solutions

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For a decade or more, we’ve all been hearing “this is the year we’ll see liquid cooled data centers.” And every year, we’ve seen a few liquid cooled HPC clusters, or we’ve seen it in small-scale deployments, but we’ve never seen liquid cooling tip over into a mainstream data center technology. 

But if you follow the industry, since 2022, you’ve probably heard more about liquid cooling than ever before, and you’ve watched industry leaders like Meta announce that they’re redesigning their data centers to use liquid cooling, at scale.

It seems we’re at an inflection point for liquid cooling adoption, with massive deployments underway, cooling leaders like Trane getting on the bandwagon, innovators like Hypertec and Submer pushing the envelope on new liquid cooling designs, and accelerated adoption in some countries, including China.

Though liquid cooling has been used in industry since the 18th century, it’s still relatively new to data centers. So why all the sudden interest?

Well, to put it simply, the data center industry is experiencing unprecedented opportunity to change the designs and economics of running their data centers by shifting toward liquid cooling as rapidly as possible.

The opportunity is all due to physics. Liquid cooling is a more efficient and environmentally friendly way to cool data centers than air cooling, because, compared with air, water is 23.5 times more efficient at transferring heat, and it has four times the heat carrying capacity. That physical efficiency and capacity translates into new opportunities for operational efficiency and capacity.

The higher heat carrying efficiency and capacity of liquid cooling is critical to the future of the industry. Today’s server innovation, intended to power intensive workloads like Generative AI, are forcing data center operators to consider a future where a 1U server will consume 1kW, 2kW, or even 3kW — generating 40-120kW of heat per rack — which simply cannot be handled with air.

In addition to being more efficient, liquid cooling also has a number of other benefits. It:

  • Supports smaller designs: Liquid cooling systems require less space than air cooling systems, and can support more data center density, which can save on real estate costs.
  • Reduces cooling noise: Liquid cooling systems are much quieter than air cooling systems, which can make them more appealing to businesses located in urban areas. Noise is not only socially annoying, it can cause trouble with regulations, and it’s a sign of wasted power efficiency.
  • Cuts water consumption: Liquid cooling systems can help to reduce water consumption, as they do not require as much water for evaporative cooling. Many liquid cooling systems consume no water at all. Reducing water consumption is both environmentally and economically sound.
  • Minimizes carbon footprint: The physical efficiency of liquid cooling can help to reduce the carbon footprint of data centers, as it can help to reduce the amount of energy and water that is used. In some server designs, up to 60% of the total power consumed goes to running the fans. Liquid cooling cuts power consumption at the server level and at the cooling system level. These cuts translate into cost savings.
  • Is tunable to quick changes in demand: Liquid cooling is the best way to cool data centers that use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), as these technologies can have rapid swings in utilization and power consumption. It’s almost impossible to reduce air cooling for a single rack, but it’s easy to tune liquid cooling to a granular server or rack level, providing a more efficient way to tune cooling to utilization.
  • Aligns to new regulations: municipalities and countries are scrutinizing the power and water consumption of data centers. Liquid cooling efficiency gives data center operators a new tool for meeting emerging regulatory requirements. For example, the EU is setting targets for heat reuse by data centers. Liquid cooling makes hitting those targets easier.
  • Headroom: we’re in the middle of unprecedented data center IT infrastructure innovation. It’s hard to predict what our infrastructure will look like in 5 or 10 years, and how much power it will consume. Smart data center operators with a long-term view know that the added headroom of liquid cooling will help them futureproof their data center designs instead of running the risks of expensive retrofitting in several years.

So if the industry has a perfect opportunity, what’s the best way to move forward?

Well, if you have the personnel, skill sets, and experience, taking a DIY approach to liquid cooling is doable. There are dozens of vendors, from startups to established enterprises, who will happily sell you products to incorporate into your designs. But that approach comes with uncertainty, the possibility of cost overruns, and delayed time to value.

Another approach is to choose the right partner who can handle liquid cooled data center design and build, at scale, anywhere in the world. What could you do with a partner who:

  • Has a proven, unique approach to liquid cooling?
  • Supports all the leading cooling tech, from D2C, rear door heat exchangers, to immersion cooling?
  • Knows how to handle site selection, modular design/build, and rapid implementation for accelerated time to value?

Odds are good a partner with those capabilities would add to your success.

Nautilus Data Technologies is a partner you can trust.

The Nautilus technology and proven process to launch lets you deliver data center capacity:

  • In less time
  • With a smaller footprint
  • Using fewer materials across every dimension
  • That increases your usable capacity
  • Exceeds sustainability goals
  • And is liquid cooling native.

Did we mention our approach means we do all these things without an increase in cost?

If you’ve decided it’s the right time for liquid cooling, consider the Nautilus approach. We’ve delivered it at scale for production workloads in California (a place with the most stringent environmental regulations in the world), and we can deliver it for you too.

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Chad Romine

Chad Romine has over two decades of experience in technical and strategic business development. As Vice President of Business Development for Nautilus Data Technologies, Mr. Romine brings global connectivity to some of the most prominent global influencers in technology. Mr. Romine has led startups and under-performing companies to successful maturity built largely upon solid partnerships. Proven results in negotiating mutually beneficial strategic alliances and joint ventures. Outside of work, Chad has invested time fundraising for the American Cancer Society. Mr. Romine recently helped secure funding and led marketing for the completion of a new private University.

Ashley Sturm

Ashley Sturm is a marketing and strategy leader with more than 15 years of experience developing strategic marketing initiatives to increase brand affinity, shape the customer experience, and grow market share. As the Vice President of Marketing at Nautilus Data Technologies, Ashley is responsible for all global marketing initiatives; she integrates the corporate strategy, marketing, branding, and customer experience to best serve clients and produce real business results. Before joining Nautilus Data Technologies, she served as the Senior Director of Marketing Brand and Content for NTT Global Data Centers Americas, spearheading marketing efforts to open two out of six data center campuses. Prior to NTT, Ashley led global marketing through the startup of Vertiv’s Global Data Center Solutions business unit, where she developed the unit’s foundational messaging and established global and regional marketing teams. Ashley’s career experience includes extensive work with the US Navy through the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness as well as broadcast journalism. Ashley earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in converged media from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism.

Paul Royere

Paul Royere is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Nautilus Data Technologies. For more than twenty years, he has specialized in finance and administration leadership for emerging technology companies, guiding them through high growth commercialization. In addition to senior team roles guiding strategic business operations, Mr. Royere has directed cross-functional teams in implementing business support systems, designing and measuring business plan performance, leading pre/post-merger activities, and delivering requisite corporate, tax and audit compliance.

While at 365 Data Centers, Mr. Royere served as Vice President of Finance leading a multi-discipline restructuring in preparation for the successful sale of seventeen data centers. As Vice President and Corporate Controller at Reliance Globalcom, Royere led the finance and business support teams to and through the conversion from a privately held company to a subsidiary of an international public conglomerate.

Arnold Magcale

Arnold Magcale is founder and Chief Technology Officer of Nautilus Data Technologies. As a recognized leader and respected visionary in the technology industry, he specializes in data center infrastructure, high-availability networks, cloud design, and Software as a Service (SaaS) Technology.

While serving on the management team of Exodus Communications, he launched one of Silicon Valley’s first data centers. Mr. Magcale’s background includes executive positions at Motorola Mobility, where his team deployed the first global Droid devices, and LinkSource Technologies and The Quantum Capital Fund, serving as Chief Technology Officer. He was an early adopter and implementer of Cloud Computing and a member of the team at Danger, Inc., acquired by Microsoft.

Mr. Magcale had a distinguished ten year career in the United States Navy Special Forces. His military and maritime expertise provided the foundation for inventing the world’s first commercial waterborne data center.

Patrick Quirk

Patrick Quirk is a business and technology executive who specializes in operations management, strategic partnerships, and technology leadership in data center, telecommunications, software, and semiconductor markets. Prior to joining Nautilus, he spent the past year working with small businesses and non-profits on survival and growth strategies in addition to PE advisory roles for critical infrastructure acquisitions. Quirk was the President of Avocent Corp, a subsidiary of Vertiv, the Vice President and General Manager for the IT Systems business, and the VP/GM of Converged Systems at Emerson Network Power, providing data center management infrastructure for data center IT, power, and thermal management products. He has held numerous global leadership roles in startups and large multinational companies including LSI and Motorola in the networking and semiconductor markets.

Rob Pfleging

Most recently, Rob was the Senior Vice President of Global Solutions at Vertiv Co, formerly Emerson Network Power. Vertiv Co is an international company that designs, develops and maintains critical infrastructures that run vital applications in data centers, communication networks and commercial and industrial facilities. Rob was responsible for the global solutions line of business at ​​Vertiv, which serves the Americas, Europe and Asia. Prior to Vertiv, Rob was the Vice President of Expansion and Innovation, Datacenter Engineering at CenturyLink, where he was responsible for 55 datacenters across North America, Europe and Asia. Before working for CenturyLink, Rob was the Executive Director of Computer/Data Center Operations at Mercy, where he led datacenter engineering and operations, desktop field services, call center services, and asset management and logistics for more than 40 hospitals. Before fulfilling this mission at Mercy, Rob held various engineering management and sales positions at Schneider Electric. Rob Pfleging additionally served for 6 years in the United States Marine Corps.

James Connaughton

James Connaughton is a globally distinguished energy, environment, technology expert, as both corporate leader and White House policymaker. Mr. Connaughton is the CEO of Nautilus Data Technologies, a high-performance, ultra-efficient, and sustainable data center infrastructure company powered by its proprietary water-cooling system. Before joining Nautilus Data Technologies, he served as Executive Vice President of C3.ai, a leading enterprise AI software provider for accelerating digital transformation.

From 2009-2013, Mr. Connaughton was Executive Vice President and a member of the Management Committee of Exelon and Constellation Energy, two of America’s cleanest, competitive suppliers of electricity, natural gas, and energy services. In 2001, Mr. Connaughton was unanimously confirmed by the US Senate to serve as Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. He served as President George W. Bush’s senior advisor on energy, environment, and natural resources, and as Director of the White House Office of Environmental Policy. During his eight-year service, Mr. Connaughton worked closely with the President, the Cabinet, and the Congress to develop and implement energy, environment, natural resource, and climate change policies. An avid ocean conservationist, Mr. Connaughton helped establish four of the largest and most ecologically diverse marine resource conservation areas in the world.

Mr. Connaughton is a member of the Advisory Board of the ClearPath Foundation and serves as an Advisor to X (Google’s Moonshot Factory) and Shine Technologies, a medical and commercial isotope company. He is also a member of the Board of Directors at the Resources for the Future and a member of the Advisory Boards at Yale’s Center on Environmental Law and Policy and Columbia’s Global Center on Energy Policy.