The Rise and Fall…And Rise Again of Data Center Cooling


The Rise and Fall…And Rise Again of Data Center Cooling

As data centers have evolved, so too has the cooling technology used to keep them running efficiently. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular technologies used in data center cooling today and how they came to be!

What Is a Datacenter? Why Does It Need Cooling?

A data center is a place where IT equipment and operations are centrally stored by a company in order to store, process, and distribute their data. Often data center infrastructure stores sensitive information and regularly needed materials, so keeping these centers in optimum shape is a critical effort and peak priority.

The equipment in these centers generates considerable heat in their operation. In order to properly maintain their functioning, these data centers must pull the heat out of the facility and its hardware to keep the temperatures inside from overheating and causing disruption in their services. 

The Launch of Datacenter Cooling 

In the 1940s, liquid immersion cooling was used to cool high-voltage transformers. Then in 1960, IBM became the first known developer of a new idea – a direct liquid cooling system for computers. At their start, data centers were once essentially just rooms dedicated to housing very early computer servers. From there, the computers themselves advanced relatively quickly throughout the next few decades, but their storage and its maintenance needs lagged behind developmentally; these newer, smaller computers (generally speaking) could do well enough with the advent of multiple transistors and metal oxide semiconductors that reduced heat emissions. Simple fans added directly to the computer’s internal design could reasonably handle the heat now.

Gaming in the ’90s is credited with changing all that. 

Especially since consumers now could custom-build their personal computers, those new, higher performance systems revived the concept of liquid cooling. As computer use for businesses also skyrocketed, the cooling method made its way back into industrial use as well. It was towards the end of the 2000s, and the invention of new cooling techniques like chilled doors and OTTO two-phase liquid immersion cooling, that data center cooling became a critical need once again to manage the omnipresent widespread use of computing. 

Data Center Cooling Today

These days, infinitely complex tech and greater awareness of its environmental impact has led to the explosion in data center cooling developments. Nowadays, there are three basic types of cooling for data center storage: air-, liquid-, and hybrid-based.

Air-Based Cooling Systems

These systems further break down into 3 types:

Cold Aisle/Hot Aisle

  • This method relies on positioning the hot sides of the computer servers away from the cold sides, which essentially creates a convection system separating the two types of air away from each other. It’s admittedly not the most efficient setup for how much additional cold air ends up needed to keep the center temperature balanced.

Air Containment

  • Building upon the cold aisle/hot aisle concept, the servers are individually contained to prevent the two air types from mixing at all. While an improvement, the method still leads to hot spots within the data center. 

In-Rack Heat Extraction

  • Hot air is removed by introducing a compression cooler directly into the racks that store the servers.

Liquid-Based Cooling Systems

There are 3 types of liquid coolants commonly involved in this type of cooling system:


  • With water-cooled racks, aka rear-door chillers, water streams beside the racks but does not ever touch the servers themselves. While generally effective, there is an inherent risk to this method that the water may leak onto the sensitive equipment, potentially ruining the hardware…, not to mention the fact that the chilling is done with compressors and uses quite some energy to cool.

Synthetic Liquid or Mineral Liquid

  • Both types of liquid are used in the liquid immersion cooling method, where whole servers are completely covered in either the synthetic or the mineral liquid. These liquids are specially crafted to handle all heat emissions while not affecting the hardware negatively. Environmental temperatures are thus able to reduce the warmer water of the secondary coolant loop. This is one of the most energy-efficient forms of cooling currently in practice.

Hybrid-Based Cooling Systems

  • This method is a closed-loop system designed to capture the heat emissions in the data center’s energy recovery water or ERW. It truly takes the best of the liquid- and air-based options and very well may be the next major direction for the entire data center cooling process.

Datacenter cooling is constantly evolving to keep up with the latest demands of technology, and TMG Core is at the forefront of these changes. We can help you manage your data center cooling to make sure your system stays up and running. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help keep you energy bills low and your data center cool!

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