Partner Insight by Victaulic

2020 Vision – Liquid Cooling in Data Centers

Data Centers in 2019 will be built on the vision for the next decade – “2020 vision” is required for success. The traditional drivers, including cost, speed, reliability and efficiency, continue to dominate design philosophy, but tools and solutions evolve, driven in part by needs for adaptability to address the uncertainty of “density diversity” – the growing need to “plug in” clusters of 50+ kW IT racks into 8 kW/rack facilities.

2020 trends, which are emerging today, include an increasing use of prefabrication, BIM (Building Information Modelling) and virtual design technologies, and an increasing use of liquids and adaptable liquid distribution to the rack. Mechanical pipe joining solutions offer key advantages in both delivery of prefab and adaptability of liquid distribution with exceptional reliability and speed.


Prefabrication includes both prefab modules (PFM) as well as prefab “kits” and enables manufacturing to be conducted off-site and minimizes onsite construction time, issues and resources. 

PFM pump rooms with grooved coupling technology are becoming increasingly common in data centers and a growing number of pump manufacturers are providing pumps with grooved connections. The reasons behind this trend are the savings in assembly time, MTTR and lifecycle costs that grooved technology provides over traditional joining methods, like welding and flanging (see Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Grooved technology helps to enhance pump room design and performance. Reduction in joint count, from 124 to 64, provides man-hour savings of up to 60% and results in faster onsite integration. Flanges, flanged valves and flex connectors are complex and slow to install, requiring perfect alignment of both holes and faceplates. Grooved couplings, on the other hand, offers simplified assembly that is exceptionally fast and easy to align, enabling precision solution installation with minimal onsite engineering (see figure 2).

Figure 2.

Their use also results in smaller, lighter and easier to install systems with the best performance warranties in the industry(averaging from 10 years for valves to 30 years for the install warranty). 

Mission critical pipe couplings also provide superior vibration mitigation and alignment, eliminating the need for bellows or braided flex connectors and thus saving significant costs and reducing safety risks on site (see Figure 3).

All this leads to enhanced life cycle performance, easier adaptability and lower mean time to repair (MTTR). 

There are even more benefits to reap when combining prefabrication with BIMand Virtual Design technologies.

Figure 3.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Virtual Design technologies

Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) has grown from being an emerging concept to an industry standard, benefitting customer-engineer communications, and design vision/development and construction delivery (see Figure 4). BIM and virtual reality enable the precision translation of vision to constructed product (see Figure 5). Maximum benefit of VDC technologies is achieved with precision construction technologies – such as grooved couplings – that provide simplified alignment and adjustment capability, avoiding the delays and risks associated with on-site custom engineering and field joints.

Figure 4.

Figure 5.

“Density Diversity” – AI/ML Drive Need for Adaptability

The emergence of “high density” applications into a broad scope of business processes is driving a need for adaptable cooling solutions, that support both air cooled and liquid cooled IT.   

Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Deep Learning related processes require a close packed structure of CPUs (+ GPUs/TPUs), creating requirements for IT densities of 50 kW/Rack or more, which generally mandates requirement for liquid cooling to the rack.

A vast majority of IT operates under 8 kW/rack, and many data center owners are investigating “hybrid” designs, where liquid distribution to row cooling and rack-based cooling (rear door, liquid to chip or immersion cooling) solutions are added as customer needs evolve (see Figure 6).

Figure 6.

An additional benefit of many of the liquid cooling solutions emerging on the market is increased efficiency and greater potential for energy reuse. With liquid cooling, IT can be effectively cooled at temperatures above 35 °C, 95°F, with greater resilience than air cooling.  The higher temperature performance enables full economizer cooling in most regions. Immersion cooling can provide even greater efficiency, by removing IT fans. In regions like the Nordic countries and China, where energy reuse is integrated into district heating, higher return temperatures offers greater incentives. 

Integration of IT into building heating and hot water systems is also a possibility. A growing number of vendors offer solutions where elevated temperature waste heat from IT equipment can be “re-used” as pre-heat to hot water applications.

2020 Vision indicates a need for adaptability in design, the ability to add clusters of 50 kW racks on demand. With good preplanning and combining the use of virtual design tools and BIM, prefabricateddesigns with grooved coupling technology can make the addition of liquid to rack solutions or adding a secondary cooling loop relatively simple, cost effective and without hot work or disruption to data center operations (see Figure 7, with visual inspection). 

Figure 7.

“2020 Vision” concepts described above are reality today. Virtual Design and precision prefab solutions are standard practice for many data centers, especially global ones. Energy reuse and immersion cooling are just beginning to develop their full potential. The data center industry’s needs for speed, cost reduction, reliability, adaptability, and minimal energy impact continue to grow on a global basis. Evolution in design concepts and construction technology is required to keep pace. “2020 Vision” is needed today.

For more information, please contact: Don Mitchell,