AI Contributing To Foundational Data Centre Power and Cooling Problem in Australia


Data center infrastructure. Image: Corona Borealis/Adobe Stock Data centres will put increasing needs on Australia’s energy grid as the rise of AI computing continues. There is a genuine danger of power scarcities for information centre operators as Australia transitions towards renewable energy infrastructure.

Ben Crowe, associate director for cloud and colocation at Vertiv in Australia and New Zealand, stated companies of big data centre campuses could consider developing their own localised source of power or microgrid to enhance information centre strength.

Data centres will also have to think carefully about data centre infrastructure style in the future, as the shift to AI calculating with denser however more powerful and hotter racks needs building in brand-new liquid cooling technologies along with conventional air cooling.

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AI to drive much greater power usage in data centres

There is no clear info telling Australians just how much energy the local information centre market utilizes, according to the CSIRO. The International Energy Company approximated in 2020 that information centres utilize 1– 1.5% of energy worldwide, which has not altered much in the last years.

But information centre energy use could be ready to spike. While advances in energy performance have balanced out growth in use in recent times, Gartner just recently anticipated that the hunger for AI calculating power might see AI alone consume 3.5% of the world’s electrical power by 2030.

Australian data centres are growing, taking in more power

Portrait of Ben Crowe Image: Ben Crowe Vertiv’s Ben Crowe said the power need for Australian information centres has actually been growing. While a big data centre facility a couple of years ago consumed 5 megawatts of power, large multi-building school centers now account for 350 megawatts, adding up to a huge demand for energy.

AI will require a lot more energy. The existing average rack density in regional information centres– or the quantity of power consumed by a rack– has to do with 10 kilowatts. AI systems will increase this power intake to 40 kilowatts, or 4 times the power usage per rack.

“The need is growing quite considerably, and it’s probably going to go higher,” Crowe said.

Information centres could rely on back-up generators, microgrids

The development in data centre power demand, simply when Australia is moving to phase out baseload power generation from coal, might lead to risks for power customers, including information centre clients. For instance, there have actually been recent cautions of blackouts over the summer of 2023.

SEE: AWS and Equinix offer strategies to mitigate the impact of data centre outages in Australia.

Crowe said he was not expecting blackouts for the next year or 2 because a great deal of baseload power facilities remain online. However, he cautioned that there might be implications for data centre consumers in the future if local financial investment in sustainable power does not maintain.

“We might see a higher variety of days with high heat, with a great deal of air conditioning unit turned on,” stated Crowe. “Power authorities might begin reaching out to information centres to tell them to turn on their on-premises power generation innovation due to the fact that they can’t provide the energy.”

Data centre designs should weather short-term shifts to backup power

Crowe stated that, while each data centre customer’s requirements and service provider arrangements will be different, ultimately information centres are designed as Tier 3 and Tier 4 uptime organizations, which would suggest they have the capacity to run facilities with backup power generation.

While the risk to customer information is very little, Crowe said that in many cases, this would need using dirtier fuel sources like diesel to run generators, which would not be the most sustainable result for either data centre service providers themselves or environment, social and governance-conscious clients.

Microgrid technologies might support data centre infrastructure

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The local data centre market may start to develop more localised power storage centers, or microgrids, near information centre infrastructure that has a lot of energy demand. These innovations will lower dependence on the energy grid, building further strength into data centre centers.

Along these lines, Tesla notoriously helped stabilise South Australia’s energy grid with an enormous lithium-ion battery, while this year Western Australia is using a solar and battery microgrid to power its biggest rail infrastructure task to prevent diesel backups and make sure power delivery.

The CSIRO said the regional information centre market was progressively thinking about developing microgrid technologies, which might enable them to supply energy to the grid or store it, while securing their own supply. Vertiv recently unveiled a microgrid offering in the U.S.

Transmission facilities a longer-term risk to information centre power

Australia requires to build more than 10,000 kilometres of transmission lines to link new renewable energy generation according to the Australian Energy Market Operator. Hold-ups in building these networks as coal-fired power stations reach their use by dates might lead to power scarcities or blackouts, the very thing new renewable energy is indicated to alleviate.

Data centres will require new cooling technologies for hotter AI

AI computing will create far more heat within information centres. While air conditioning and cooling has actually played a huge function in the market to date, Crowe stated the “laws of thermodynamics” suggest innovations like immersion or direct-to-chip cooling will need to be thought about.

Immersion and direct-to-chip cooling methods, which pass liquids closer than ever before to equipment to soak up and distribute the heat produced by computing, will permit data centres to cool server devices that is operating at greater temperatures more effectively.

Crowe stated that, while there will constantly be a requirement for air cooling innovations as part of the cooling mix, it is always going to have constraints.

“Water, or liquid in general, is a better medium for moving heat,” said Crowe. “For greater heat load technologies, usually, a liquid cooled solution is probably going to be more common and appropriate. I believe we’re going to see more adoption in liquid technologies, however we’re still going to see a lot of air-cooled innovation for the foreseeable future.”

Information centres will require to develop for AI-driven change

The information centre market will need to believe thoroughly about design and method as some facilities reach end of life. While more recent information centres will be easier to adapt for AI, Crowe said it will be intriguing to see how the marketplace as a whole balances a mix of innovations to manage AI.

SEE: Explore these best practices for information centre migration.

According to Crowe, this will include considerations like what mix of air and liquid cooling technologies to install to handle the heat of AI computing and whether facilities will need to be updated to deal with the higher density and much heavier equipment that will need to be housed in each hall.

“You have actually still got a lot of demand at the moment for utilising existing technologies, which are actually great,” Crowe stated. “But there’s a lot of discussion now going on around whether a shift may be required from some information centres in 2 to 3 years’ time.

“People are then saying, ‘If we’re going to a liquid or immersion cooling service, how do we construct that into our existing facilities? What sort of styles and structures do we need to make to make all that work?’ So yeah, it’s a truly interesting place at the moment.”

Superpowered racks will put more power in less space

AI is because of drive power intake within single data centre racks from about 10 kilowatts to 40 kilowatts. This could see information centre suppliers butting up versus the concurred energy intake limitations they have in place, while using less space within their facility.

“If the power authority has actually given you 40 megawatts of capacity, that total of power can now get utilised within one information hall,” Crowe stated. “That’s going to be another difficulty– companies getting more power into their buildings, asking for more power from the power authority.”


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