Data Center Executive Roundtable, Second Quarter, 2021

Welcome to our 23rd Data Center Executive Roundtable, a quarterly feature showcasing the insights of thought leaders on the state of the data center industry, and where it is headed.


Our Second Quarter 2021 roundtable offers insights on four topics: rack density trends and cooling strategies, the outlook for data center staffing, enterprise data center demand and options, and the state of edge computing.


The conversation is moderated by Rich Miller, the founder and editor of Data Center Frontier. Each day this week we will present a Q&A with these executives on one of our key topics. We begin with a look at our panel’s take on trends in data center rack density and cooling.


Strategies for Cooling Higher Rack Densities


Data Center Frontier: What is the current state of data center rack density, and what lies ahead for cooling as more users put artificial intelligence to work in their applications?


Kevin Facinelli, Nortek: Rack density is undoubtedly increasing due to artificial intelligence and other emerging applications. However, it’s difficult to predict how much cooling future heat loads will require. The best strategy to employ now is future-proofing a data center facility and ensuring there’s flexibility to adapt the cooling infrastructure to any anticipated heat loads.


Water-based cooling has a brighter future than air cooling because its a more energy-efficient and effective heat transfer method. Furthermore, chilled water systems are probably best known for supplying fan coil walls, but they can also bring cooling directly to a rack via rear door heat exchangers and cold plate chip cooling. Today, many applications don’t require cooling at the rack, but it’s a huge advantage to have the water-based cooling infrastructure already in place to inexpensively bring chilled water directly to expanded racks.


One strategy for increased rack density heat loads is the cooling distribution unit (CDU). The capital cost of CDUs discourages some operators to use them, but now there are alternatives. Instead, rear door heat exchangers, cold plate chip cooling and other less expensive methods are more cost-effective alternatives. That’s where future-proofing pays dividends. Instead of expanding a traditional cooling infrastructure that wasn’t designed for scalability, there are cutting-edge cooling plants available today that are flexible and designed for scalability. That’s the best strategy for approaching future rack density heat loads.


The Outlook for Enterprise Data Center Demand in the Pandemic Recovery


In today’s discussion, our panel of experienced data center executives weighs in on enterprise data center demand as the U.S. recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. The conversation is moderated by Rich Miller, the founder and editor of Data Center Frontier. Each day this week we will present a Q&A with these executives on one of our key topics. Here’s today’s discussion:


Data Center Frontier: How have enterprise data center needs evolved during the pandemic? What do you expect for 2021?


Kevin Facinelli, Nortek Data Center Cooling: Remote working during the pandemic significantly increased network traffic and all the demands associated with it, such as larger heat loads. These demands are pushing a shift in which businesses running their own enterprise data centers, which may not be their expertise, are looking to other solutions, such as outsourcing these emerging demands to colocations and hyperscale operators.


However, those businesses looking to continue managing their own enterprise systems are looking for more simplification to accommodate growing IT demands. One way to simplify data center management is to commission vendors that have the comprehensive complement of equipment that’s needed for a task, such as cooling. Instead of a collection of different cooling equipment vendors, we see enterprise operators looking for vendors that supply everything from a self-contained cooling plant to the cooling terminal units, such as fan coil walls, rear door heat exchangers, cold plate chip coolers and computer room air handlers (CRAH). In other words, they want a single-source-responsibility type of vendor with a service network to support it.


The State of Edge Computing in 2021


What’s hot in edge computing? What are the use cases gaining traction? That’s today’s topic in our Data Center Executive Roundtable, as our panel of experienced data center executives weighs in the evolution of edge infrastructure and business models. 

The conversation is moderated by Rich Miller, the founder and editor of Data Center Frontier. Here’s today’s discussion:


Data Center Frontier: Edge computing continues to be a hot topic. How is this sector evolving, and what use cases and applications are gaining the most traction with customers?


Kevin Facinelli: We see the edge computing sector evolving as network capabilities evolve, such as 5G. High speed network connections still need to connect back to accommodating facilities, such as a hyperscalers or large colocation. Another issue that is driving edge computing, is data privacy. The whole idea of social media is to globalize communication, but some countries have restrictions.


So large cloud computing companies are building data centers within regions where the data can be monitored and restricted by the respective country. As data privacy issues evolve in different countries globally, localized data solutions, versus global solutions, will continue to increase, which we think will help grow business as well.