Densification

An option that continues to grow year-over-year is not building up or out at all, but solving the need for more compute by increasing IT density. The computing power density has risen from 5 kW per rack a decade ago to an average closer to 15 kW per rack for today’s new data centers. The industry has steadily looked for more options, as the desire for more space requires more capital investment, even as the requirements for more power and cooling grows linearly with the density.

Densifying, like going with higher data centers, increases the amount of power per acre as well as the cooling needs. There are solutions for even the most challenging power and cooling needs, with many specially developed super computing platforms still in operation today.

However the need for density isn’t typically derived by the data center manager or owner, but by those looking for a home for their servers. The data center may have flexibility to achieve 25 kW per rack or higher using only air-cooling solutions and 70 kW and more with liquid cooling, but the data center may never reach these lofty heights if the end users aren’t willing to use the equipment and configurations that will take them this high.

The costs to increase density with a new building also depend on the kW per rack, as there is a perceived threshold to utilize water-based cooling at the server or rack level once above a certain power range (typically 15 to 30 kW per rack, depending on the white space configuration).

Data centers with more flexibility and options for higher density are likely to be more comprehensive and be the better solution for clients, no matter if they ever actually deploy with equipment that match those densities during their lifespan.

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