Development Trends and Analysis of Liquid Cooling Technology in Data Centers — Chapter 3. Trends and Opportunities

Review from our first chapter, our discussion commences with the question, “Why Liquid Cooling?”This section covered various aspects, including the differentiation between cooling solutions like air and liquid cooling, and their applications in data centers. Moving forward, we examined the factors contributing to the explosive growth of liquid cooling technology. We delved into the challenges and considerations associated with its implementation, exploring elements such as cost, compatibility, and adherence to environmental regulations. The narrative also highlighted the potential benefits of liquid cooling in enhancing IT output and driving business growth.

In the second chapter, we explored the intricacies linked to large-scale adoption. The discourse underscored the significance of safety compliance, operational challenges, and standardization. We also touched upon the potential shift toward single-phase immersion cooling in the medium term. The progress made by telecommunication operators and internet giants in adopting these technologies was noted. Lastly, we discussed the prerequisites for widespread liquid cooling adoption, particularly its rising prominence in various industries, especially in the realm of AI.

Now, in the third chapter. let’s look ahead to the data center liquid cooling technology opportunities.

The rapid advancement of liquid cooling technology using cold plate solutions is driven by its robust technical compatibility and seamless integration into existing data center infrastructure, especially for completed data center projects.

However, looking ahead to the medium term, single-phase immersion cooling technology is poised to become mainstream. This projection is based on several factors, including its superior heat dissipation capabilities and simplified structure. If issues like fire safety and flammability can be addressed for oil-based cooling fluids, their widespread adoption becomes viable.

Currently, telecommunication operators are predominantly promoting both cold plate and single-phase immersion cooling techniques. Conversely, internet giants might opt for divergent paths based on their individual stances. Some may even choose a combination of both, while others might skip certain intermediate stages.

For data center manufacturers, my personal recommendation is to establish a foundational cooling capability, whether cold plate or immersion. This encompasses essential infrastructure factors such as load-bearing capacity and rack height to cater to customer preferences. Furthermore, offering integrated, readily deployable cold plate solutions in the short term is advised to meet market demands.

Looking ahead, it’s evident that AI training is a pivotal domain where large-scale liquid cooling adoption is being explored. Additionally, from training to inference stages, powerful computing capabilities are required for inference servers, necessitating the incorporation of liquid cooling technology. Ultimately, liquid cooling technology is poised to permeate the data center industry.

However, the widespread application of liquid cooling technology necessitates several prerequisites. Firstly, the overall cost of liquid cooling systems must be reduced to a level where users perceive liquid cooling to be more cost-effective than air cooling, without requiring special configurations for the latter. Secondly, a comprehensive ecosystem of liquid cooling technology must be established, offering a range of supporting equipment and solutions. It’s only under these conditions that users will universally opt for liquid cooling technology.

In the context of telecommunication operators, I believe substantial progress has already been made in the realm of liquid cooling technology. As per plans, by 2025 and beyond, over 50% of projects are projected to adopt scaled liquid cooling technology applications — a notably ambitious target.

Regarding internet giants and other enterprises, I am confident that as the industry matures, they will gradually embrace liquid cooling technology. Whether embarking from the AI sector or comprehensively adopting liquid cooling technology across various domains, these entities will progressively venture into this landscape.