Cooling Data Centres with Warm Water? Digital Week SEA Opens with Focus on Energy-Efficient Solutions to Counter Rapid Digitalisation

With discussions around data centres, the cloud, cybersecurity, digital transformation and disruptive technologies, the Digital Week: Southeast Asia, organised by W Media, formally went live this week.

Digital Week, which will also take place in April for South Asia, June for North Asia and October for Australasia, is a first for W. Media. It aims to create a space for IT professionals to come together and share their insights while reaching an even broader and digitised network amidst the pandemic.

Digital Week: Southeast Asia combines the informational expertise of a leading webinar series with the personal touch of in-person conferences and exhibitions, bringing together key players across the region. This four-day virtual event connects a network with 7000+ Senior IT Leaders across the ASEAN markets.

The first day of the event kicked off with a keynote session from Dale Sartor, Affiliate, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In his talk titled, “Cooling Data Centres with Warm Water”, Dale discussed the urgent need for energy-efficient solutions for today’s organisations and how such cooling technology achieves this. According to him, companies should consider sustainability within their operations as their top priority.

“Why is it important to know about energy-efficiency in these types of buildings (data centres)? Well, I think that sustainability is basically best practices; it's not like a separate entity. It lowers total cost of ownership. It can improve reliability. It can improve resiliency”, explained Dale.

For data centres, organisations often use individual servers with fans and air-cooling as it is the simplest and easiest thing to do. However, such practices are not as sustainable as it consumes so much energy. In fact, almost half of the electricity used in data centres accounts for cooling systems.

According to Dale, a more efficient way to cool data centres is with liquid cooling rather than air-conditioning systems. He said that while this technology is not new, such an approach is now returning as data centres become denser, which requires a faster and more efficient way to cool processors and servers.

This works by applying water directly to the components of data centres, whether by conduction plates or immersion. Typically, these systems use cooled water to lower the temperature of the data centre, but this approach is not really efficient as it still needs a chiller or compressor.

“The next step is to utilise technologies that allow warmer water, because the warmer the water, the more you don't need the chiller or the more efficient the chiller operates. It gets to a point where it's so warm that you don't even need the chiller”, added Dale.

He mentioned that with warmer water, organisations can cool data centres without compressors, add reliability as it serves as a backup in case of chiller failure and even reuses the heat for adjacent offices directly.

Such an approach functions with the principle that you can lower the temperature of a processor with water that is cooler than the component. For example, organisations can use a 40-degree Celsius water-cooling system to cool a CPU that reaches up to 80 degrees Celsius high.

“In terms of how an example of where it lowers TCO and improves reliability and resiliency, it’s because warm water cooling eliminates chillers and reduces your capital. This system is simple and easier to maintain and operate. Also, fewer failure points, I mean if you don't have a chiller, the chiller can't fail”, Dale explained.

Aside from Dale’s insightful session, the SEA Digital Week also features various talks, presentations and fireside chats, every day until February 26 – with topics centred on the countries in the region, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam and the whole SEA in general.

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