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Silicon Heatwave: The Looming Change in Data Center Climates

Data center design power densities have remained virtually static for nearly two decades, reducing the need for the replacement of aging power and cooling equipment for performance reasons, and this has helped extend the useful life of many legacy facilities.

However, this well-established pattern has changed. A technology refresh at the start of the 2020s brought a marked increase in power for the new generation of highly performing and efficient servers that are the foundation of many IT infrastructures.

In this report we explore the factors that drove this change and what the implications and options are for data center designers and operators.

Key Findings:

  • After a long period of relative stability, typical server power consumption has risen steeply since the middle of the 2010s — and is expected to keep rising.

  • The force behind this trend is an upsurge in silicon power, chiefly server processors, which is likely to continue.

  • High thermal power and lower temperature limits of next-generation server processors will challenge the practicality of air cooling and frustrate efficiency and sustainability drives.

  • Data center operators face some complex decisions around how to prepare their facilities (if at all) for the next generation of higher power servers.

Report Authors:

  • Daniel Bizo, Research Director, Uptime Institute Intelligence

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