How and Why AI is Used for Data Center Cooling

Posted by Annie Paquette on January 09, 2020


There is a good reason that Google opted to apply artificial intelligence in its bid to reach the lowest PUE in the industry.   The mechanical system of any data center represents the low-hanging fruit on the tree of cost savings through energy efficiency.  Their oft-cited project produced a 40% reduction in operating costs associated with cooling.  What may not be as apparent is the role that data center PDUs play in this story. 

But first, let’s talk about cooling.

Cooling systems, as pointed out in this article by Alan Seal on, are incredibly complex. In order for them to operate optimally, there must exist a direct line of communication between the innumerable servers and computing devices that are generating the load.  Humans can help with load balancing, but completing that task in real-time is simply too complex for even the savviest team of engineers.  In short, there is simply too much data to take in and process, and too many decisions that need to be made.

With that said, a cautionary note before we move headlong into artificial intelligence. As mentioned in this article in The ACHR News: “AI will likely impact all aspects of HVACR equipment and controls, but people should not expect magical results overnight…as end-users will see the true value of AI over time, with benefits that include improved comfort, energy savings, asset life, and predictive maintenance.”  It is important to focus on what you can and cannot improve with AI, and it is likewise important to set expectations before tackling these kinds of projects.  Artificial intelligence is not the be-all, end-all.

So why all of the talk about AI and data center cooling?  Undoubtedly, it yields operating efficiencies.  Primarily, there’s a reduction in power consumed by the mechanical system, but also less wear and tear on those systems.  The secondary benefits are less obvious. 

Optimizing the operation of the mechanical infrastructure has several hidden cost benefits.  First, it could lead to a reduction in the amount and regularity of required maintenance on systems.  Second, equipment that is operated efficiently and within optimal conditions tends to last longer, which means that the useful service life of key components such as pumps and chillers can be extended.  Pushing replacement timeframes out into the future extends the parameters of the financial model.  The net effect is a reduction in the total cost of ownership.

So, what is the role of the intelligent PDU in the data center environmental monitoring struggle? First, rack PDU(s) are uniquely positioned to provide cost-effective data collection points at the rack.  Along with utility-grade power monitoring, they can also be leveraged to collect temperature and humidity points back to the system in real-time. This combined power distribution, management, and monitoring approach leverage the sunk cost of rack PDUs.   It makes them the eyes and ears, so to speak, within the rack.  Having intelligent PDUs is like having thousands of thermostats in your facility, right where you need them. 

So how do you both manage cooling costs and leverage the benefits of AI in your data center?  Start with Server Tech’s intelligent PDUs and turn data about your data center into actionable information.  From there you can realize cost savings and increased efficiency for your bottom line.

How Intelligent PDUs Lead to Cost Savings in the Data Center