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Saturday, June 11, 2022

Rethinking Datacenters

 Power and Carbon and further considerations of their infrastructure

The Future of the Datacenter

By Samuel Greengard

Commissioned by CACM Staff, June 9, 2022

As businesses and governments worldwide search for ways to reduce their carbon footprint, there is a growing focus on datacenters, which are expected to consume 8% of global electricity by 2030—a 15-fold increase over 2018 levels. Much of this growth is attributed to growing demands for video content.

In addition, datacenters pull enormous volumes of water for cooling, while impacting the environment in other ways.

Although datacenters have become steadily greener—typically through the application of immersion cooling, air-side economizers, and machine learning (ML) that's used to optimize systems—businesses and others are now focusing on designing and building facilities with a smaller carbon footprint. "This requires new and better technologies," says Matteo Manganelli, a researcher at the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy, and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA).

As a result, engineers are now exploring several innovative concepts: facilities that operate underwater; the use of hydrogen fuel cells, algae bricks, and other alternative materials; and entirely structural designs that optimize energy use. "The answers will likely come from a mix of technologies and approaches," says Alessandro Soldati, a researcher in the field of power electronics at the University of Parma in Italy.

Out of Energy

More efficient electronics and improved datacenter cooling systems have emerged in recent years. Yet, these gains are insufficient to offset the enormous and growing demand for computational power, and the energy it draws. Grand View Research predicts that the datacenter colocation market will grow by a 13.3% annual rate through 2028.

Datacenters globally consume an estimated 200-terawatt hours (TWh) annually, which is more than the national energy consumption of some countries. Microsoft, for example, has reported that it plans to build between 50 and 10 datacenters annually for the foreseeable future. AWS, Google, Apple, and others have also introduced plans to build new and often larger facilities.

All of this is prompting engineers to consider completely rethinking the datacenter.   ...   "

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