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Facebook’s New Data Center Cooling Design Allows Construction in More Places

Jun 6, 2018
by Justin Hughes

MENLO PARK, CA — Facebook broadcast a new cooling system that should make some of its data centers more water and energy-efficient. The social network, continuing to pride itself in building environmentally friendly data centers, cools most of those data centers using outdoor air and direct evaporative cooling systems, but in a variety of locations, the data centers are required to utilize indirect cooling systems to guard IT equipment from harsh environmental conditions, such as high levels of dust, extreme humidity, or elevated salinity, according to a Facebook blog post.

In the blog post, Facebook revealed a new indirect cooling technology it expects to begin using in data centers it constructs in the future. It features an advanced evaporative cooling system that uses water instead of air to cool data centers.

Veerendra Mulay, Facebook’s research and development mechanical engineer, said in the post, “When deployed, the new cooling will allow us to build highly water- and energy-efficient Facebook data centers in places where direct cooling is not feasible. Based on our testing in several different locations, we anticipate the (new) system can reduce water usage by more than 20 percent for data centers in hot and humid climates and by almost 90 percent in cooler climates in comparison with previous indirect cooling systems.”

data center summitFacebook uses indirect cooling systems in two locations worldwide, Mulay described in an interview with Data Center Knowledge and added that the new indirect cooling system – called the StatePoint Liquid Cooling (SPLC) system – will let the company to consider building water- and energy-efficient data centers in areas that may not have been feasible previously. Mulay said, in regards to choice of data center cooling design, “We evaluate the needs on a site-by-site basis.look at the climate, the salinity in the air, and other conditions. But if we go indirect, this new technology is what we will use.”

Facebook co-developed the new data center cooling technology with Nortek Air Solutions, a manufacturer of custom commercial HVAC systems, beginning in 2015. The center of the SPLC system is a liquid-to-air energy exchanger, where water is cooled as it evaporates through a membrane separation layer, as described in the blog post. The cold water then cools the air inside the data center and preserves servers at optimal temperatures.

Mulay continued in the interview, “What happens is that your energy exchange happens in two places, instead of just one place. You use outside air to produce cold water. That cold water then goes to your data center, where you will use the cold water to cool the processed air, and then the processed air is sent to the servers, so they can be cooled.”

Mulay added, Nortek owns the patent for the SPLC technology which means other companies, not exclusively Facebook, can reach Nortek to utilize it in their data centers.

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