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Is the Future of the Data Center Arctic?

John Huntington
June 12, 2014

With more and more data centers come more and more cooling challenges. As data centers have continued to evolve, so have the methods for cooling them. But recently, a few companies have taken a run at something that lies well outside of traditional cooling methods: going arctic.

As Jeff Cogswell reported for Intel’s Tech Page One blog, several organizations today are trying out a new generation of data centers that don’t need (as many) traditional coolers to run efficiently. Here are a few ways organizations are utilizing creative locations to keep cool:

  • Data center in a gypsum mine: In 2001, an IT startup purchased a dormant gypsum mine to take advantage of cool ambient temperatures when operating a data center. This facility didn’t last for more than a couple of years, but still started an interesting conversation surrounding unconventional data center locations.
  • Working just outside the Arctic Circle: Facebook’s new data center in Sweden is built in a climate that ranges from -10 degrees to 70 degrees, depending on the season. Using hydroelectric energy, Facebook has been able to efficiently power the data center, a goal that’s assisted by the greatly reduced cooling costs thanks to the cooler temperatures.
  • Cooling a data center with cold seawater: Google’s data center in Finland doesn’t use cool air; instead, it uses seawater from the Gulf of Finland to help keep things cool. Google has liked this approach so much that it plans to expand with more data centers in the country.
  • Going into the mountains: Finally, we have the NSA’s new data center in the mountains of Utah. This location doesn’t remove all heat from the data center, but still significantly lessens the load needed to cool the massive data center.

So: is the future of the data center arctic? It’s hard to say. But one thing’s for certain: with an increase in efficiency, processing power, and data center usage comes an increased need for cooling (whether through new or old methods).

While going arctic may be one answer, it’s certainly not the only answer for keeping data centers cool. Don’t expect all of the data centers of the future to be arctic; there’s more than one way to meet this need to stay cool.

You can learn more about how Telx keeps its data centers cool by looking at our data center cooling page here. If you’d like more detail or are interested in learning about what we’re doing to address this rapidly growing need for keeping data centers cool, don’t be afraid to get in touch via the contact page of our site, or by Facebook or Twitter.

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