Cooling Systems at Data Centers

One of the things that I was really looking forward to seeing before our site visit last Tuesday was the cooling systems. When describing the center of Milwaukee’s Internet in Tubes, Andrew Blum illustrates how the “double-hung windows were thrown wide open to the winter, the cheapest way to keep the machines cool” (Blum 2012: 23-24). Even though I was not expecting that to be the case of DataGryd, Blum’s description was, at least, quite surprising to me. As we were told by Peter Feldman (CEO) during the visit—and as they state on their website—at 60 Hudson Street waste heat from the gas turbines is captured by their absorption chillers and cooling to the datacenter floors is offered not only by condensed water from their cooling towers, but also also through the chilled water created from the gas turbine waste heat.

In order to make the cooling infrastructure work though, new generators had to be installed in the building a few years ago. As Rich Miller explains in this article from Data Center Knowledge, the superstorm Sandy back in 2012 made everyone aware of the problems that come with placing power generators in the basement of buildings. Despite the fact that DataGryd did not experience any power shortage or flooding during the superstorm, the generators were shifted to the 24th floor of 60 Hudson Street. Miller goes on to talk about both the cooling system and the cooling towers, which were added to the roof and each support 8,500 tons of condensed water. As it turns out, the purpose of all this is to provide medium-voltage electricity which involves less cabling and less power loss during distribution.

After the site visit I wanted to learn more about cooling efficiency when it comes to data centers, and I came across this article from, which compares two different techniques. On the one hand, air cooling has been the most common method since digital technologies improved and computers kept getting smaller and smaller. On the other hand, water cooling—which used to be the default means of keeping a computer cool—has pointed out in the last few years the problems of air cooling regarding, for instance, lack of space, poor conductivity and cost of maintenance.

I definitely recommend these articles to everyone interested in cooling mechanisms and data centers.

Sources Cited

Blum, Andrew. “The Map.” Tubes. New York City: HarperCollins, 2012. Web.

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