By Nathan Blom, Chief Commercial Officer, Iceotope
With the growing migration of data to the edge, telco providers are facing new challenges in the race to net zero. Applications like IoT and 5G require ultra-low latency and high scalability to process large volumes of data close to where the data is generated, often in remote locations. Mitigating power constraints, simplifying serviceability and significantly driving down maintenance costs are rapidly becoming top priorities. Operators are tasked with navigating these changes in a sustainable and cost-effective manner, while working towards their net zero objectives. Liquid cooling is one solution able to help them do just that.
Challenges facing telco operators
The major challenges confronting telco operators can be distilled into three fundamental aspects: power constraints, increased density, and rising costs.
The limitations of available power in the grid pose a significant challenge. Both urban areas and the extreme edge have concerns about diverting power from other essential activities. As telcos demand more data processing, increased computational power, and GPUs, power consumption becomes a critical bottleneck. This constraint pushes operators to find innovative solutions to reduce power consumption.
Telco operators also face the dual challenge of increasing the number of towers while also enhancing the capacity of each tower. This requirement to boost compute power at each node and increase the number of nodes strains both power budgets and computational capabilities. The pursuit of maximising the value of each location becomes critical.
Finally, the combination of increased density, heightened service costs per site, and a surge in operational expenses (OPEX) due to the need for service and maintenance leads to rising costs, particularly at the extreme edge. The logistics and expenses of servicing remote sites drive up OPEX, making it a pressing concern for telco operators.
Liquid cooling as a solution
One promising avenue to address these challenges is liquid cooling. Cooling is a vital aspect of data centre operations, consuming approximately 40% of the total electricity used. Liquid cooling is rapidly becoming the solution of choice to efficiently and cost-effectively accommodate today’s compute requirements. However, not all liquid cooling solutions are the same.
Direct-to-chip appears to offer the highest cooling performance at chip levels, but because it still requires air cooling, it adds inefficiencies at the system level. It is a nice interim solution to cool the hottest chips, but it does not address the longer-term goals of sustainability, serviceability, and scalability. Meanwhile, tank immersion offers a more sustainable option at the system level, but requires a complete rethink of data centre design. This works counter to the goals of density, scalability, and most importantly, serviceability. Facility and structural requirements mean brownfield data centre space is essentially eliminated as an option for both of those solutions, not to mention special training is required to service the equipment.
Precision liquid cooling combines the best of both technologies, by removing nearly 100% of the heat generated by the electronic components of a server and reducing energy use by up to 40% and water consumption by up to 100%. It does this by using a small amount of dielectric coolant to precisely target and remove heat from the hottest components of the server, ensuring maximum efficiency and reliability. This eliminates the need for traditional air-cooling systems and allows for greater flexibility in designing IT solutions. There are no hotspots to slow down performance, no wasted physical space on unnecessary cooling infrastructure, and minimal need for water consumption.
Precision liquid cooling also reduces stress on chassis components, reducing component failures by 30% and extending server lifecycles. Servers can be hot swapped at both the data centre and at remote locations. Service calls are simplified and eliminate exposure to environmental elements on-site, de-risking service operations.
Operating within standard rack-based chassis, Precision liquid cooling is also highly scalable. Telco operators can effortlessly expand their compute capacity from a single node to a full rack, adapting to evolving needs.
The telco industry is on the cusp of a transformative era. Telco operators are grappling with the challenges of power constraints, increased density, and rising costs, particularly at the extreme edge. Precision liquid cooling offers a sustainable solution to these challenges. As the telecommunications landscape continues to evolve, embracing innovative cooling solutions becomes a strategic imperative for slashing energy and maintenance costs while driving toward sustainability goals. It’s going to be an exciting time for the future of compute.